Combination of vanillin and an antibiotic eliminates resistant bacteria
Increasing antibiotic resistance worldwide poses a major threat to human health. Researchers have now found that combining an antibiotic with vanillin - the compound that gives vanilla its taste - could stop the spread of drug-resistant super bacteria.
In their current study, the scientists found that mixing the drug spectinomycin with vanillin increases the antibiotic's ability to penetrate bacterial cells and prevent them from growing. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Nature".
The world is heading for a post-antibiotic era
Spectinomycin was originally used to treat gonorrhea in the 1960s until gonorrhea developed resistance to spectinomycin. Antibiotics have often been used unnecessarily by general practitioners and hospital staff for decades to treat harmless bacteria, with the result that the bacteria increasingly develop resistance and become so-called super-pathogens. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already warned that if nothing is done, the world is heading for a post-antibiotic era.
The antibiotic crisis affects everyone
A shortage of new effective medications in connection with an overdose or improper use has triggered the antibiotic crisis, which according to the World Health Organization can potentially affect everyone, regardless of their age and in which country. Frequent infections such as chlamydia could then become fatal diseases. There is currently no immediate solution to such a crisis, the researchers say.
Ten million deaths per year from super-pathogens in the future?
Bacteria can become drug-resistant if people take incorrect doses of antibiotics or if antibiotics are taken unnecessarily. The scientists assume that the resulting super-pathogens will kill ten million people every year by 2050, with those affected dying from once harmless infectious diseases.
We need new, effective antibiotics
Around 700,000 people worldwide already die from drug-resistant infections such as tuberculosis (TB) every year. Concerns have repeatedly been raised that medicine will be brought back to a dark age when antibiotics become ineffective. In addition to the increasingly ineffective drugs, only one or two new antibiotics have been developed in the past 30 years. Without effective antibiotics, for example, cancer treatments and hip prostheses become incredibly risky, experts found in a previous study.
Combinations increased the effectiveness of antibiotics
Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and Heidelberg have now exposed three different disease-causing bacteria to almost 3,000 drug and food additive combinations. More than 500 of the combinations increased the effectiveness of antibiotics, the doctors explain.
Combination of spectinomycin and vanillin was particularly effective
A selection of these combinations was then tested on multi-resistant bacteria from infected hospital patients. The author of the study says about the combination of spectinomycin and vanillin Ana Rita Brochado from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory: This combination was one of the most effective and promising synergies identified.
Antibiotics can cause severe side effects
Vanillin also reduces the effectiveness of other antibiotics, which could actually benefit human health. Antibiotics can lead to collateral damage and side effects because they also target healthy bacteria. However, the effects of these drug combinations are very selective, explains study author Athanasios Typas from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. In the future, drug combinations could specifically prevent the harmful effects of antibiotics on healthy bacteria. This would also reduce the development of antibiotic resistance, since healthy bacteria are not pressurized to develop antibiotic resistance that can later be transferred to dangerous bacteria, the researcher adds.
How serious is the antibiotic resistance crisis?
Despite the wide availability of antibiotics, infectious diseases remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide, the experts say. In the absence of new therapies, the mortality rate due to untreatable infections is expected to increase more than tenfold by 2050. WHO has already identified resistance to antibiotics as a serious threat to every region of the world. (as)