Following threatening rise of antibiotic resistance superbugs which medical experts had foretold would wipe off about 300 million humans by 2050, researchers have come up with an artificial virus which could help destroy these bacteria.
Report has it that some scientists have been able to transform a key protein in human breast milk into an ‘artificial virus’ that seeks out and kills bacteria on the spot – creating a powerful new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.
According to Sciencealert, the artificial virus is able to kill bacteria almost instantly by punching holes in their cell membrane. By so doing, good weapon against drug resistance is built and these bacteria won’t be able to build up defences.
One other interesting fact about this research is that the new virus is also able to deliver gene therapy to human cells, while keeping bacteria in check.
The key protein, known as lactoferrin which has been long known for its role in the growth and development of babies especially in keeping them healthy while their immune system is still developing, has also been identified as a key destroyer of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses. The fragment of amino acids, which is less than a nanometre in width, has also been identified as being responsible for giving the protein its anti-microbial properties.
Having identified the fragment, the researchers re-engineered it into a virus-like capsule that can recognize and target specific bacteria and damage them on contact, but without affecting any surrounding human cells.
“To monitor the activity of the capsules in real time we developed a high-speed measurement platform using atomic force microscopy.
“The challenge was not just to see the capsules, but to follow their attack on bacterial membranes.
The result was striking, the capsules acted as projectiles porating (punching tiny holes in) the membranes with bullet speed and efficiency.” said one of the researchers, Hasan Alkassem.
However, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England said in an interview with the Times that more effort is needed to ensure that antibiotics issues were tackled.
“We need on average, 10 new antibiotics every decade. If others do not work with us, it’s not something we can sort on our own,”
“This is a global problem. I am optimistic about this. The science is crackable. It’s doable.” she said
Meanwhile, report from the Guardian has it that most populous countries such as India and China will be much affected as they will have to deal with 2 million and 1 million deaths respectively every year by 2050 if nothing is done, and one in every four deaths in Nigeria will be due to antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Right now, a “low estimate” of the annual number of antimicrobial residence diseases is 700,000.
Aside killing these bacteria, fungi and virus effectively, the scientists hope lactoferrin could also help fight genetic disorders like sickle-cell anaemia, a hereditary disease affecting the red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body.