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Viruses used to tackle antibiotic resistance

Clinical news

Viruses used to tackle antibiotic resistance

Health Watch, by Brian Collett


Enemies now allies

Viruses are being studied as tools to kill bacteria and overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Brighton University scientists say using bacteriophages in this way may be a breakthrough, after evidence that they halt Proteus mirabilis bacteria infections, which lead to catheter blockage, kidney complications and septicaemia.

Dr Brian Jones said: “The challenge of antibiotic resistance makes it important to look at these promising alternatives to antibiotics.” But he warned the research was still early-stage. Specialists at other centres, including the University of Bath, Queen’s University Belfast and the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, worked with the Brighton team.

Cholesterol vaccine

The creators of an anti-cholesterol vaccine are seeking commercial partners to develop it while awaiting an American patent. The vaccine, which carries a virus-like particle targeting the protein that dictates cholesterol levels, is claimed to be cheaper and more effective than statins. Researchers at New Mexico University and the government’s National Institutes of Health have tested it successfully on mice and monkeys.

Wheeze detective

A device enabling doctors to interpret wheezing is being developed at North Carolina State University. Sensors worn by patients and powered by body heat register the wheezing, and software pinpoints the source in the lungs and determines its severity, aiding diagnosis and treatment. The researchers hope eventually to combine the sensing electronics and software in one device.

New role for drugs

Some psychiatric drugs are thought likely to combat several emerging viruses. The anti- psychotic haloperidol, the antidepressant fluoxetine, and the anaesthetic bupivacaine were found to block bunyaviruses.

These invaders include the increasingly common and often fatal Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic virus, a tick-borne bug that affects the liver, kidneys and other organs. Researchers at Leeds, Nottingham and Glasgow Universities call their ndings “very promising”. Dr Alain Kohl at Glasgow University said: “If existing drugs are con rmed to be effective against known members of a particular virus family, this opens up the possibility of using these off- the-shelf treatments in a rapid response against dangerous new related strains.”

ECG in the car

An electrocardiogram incorporating metal plates in a car seat will monitor the driver’s heart and detect problems promptly to prevent accidents, claim its developers. It will work through clothing layers and connect with emergency braking and stopping responses, say the scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Dresden. The monitoring may eventually be integrated into hospital beds, clothing and blankets.

Syrup therapy

Pure maple syrup may ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Toronto University specialists noted that the syrup extract could block the misfolding and clumping of two brain cell proteins, a process creating plaques that damage the brain in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Separate research has found the extract prevented the tangling of beta amyloid proteins and protected microglial cells, which are disabled in Alzheimer’s patients.

Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, said: “Maple syrup has more than 100 bioactive compounds, some of which have anti-in ammatory properties. Brain health is the latest topic of exploration, and we look forward to learning more."

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