Existing antibiotics found in the dirt

  • An agriculture student-turned-microbiologist, Selman Waksman, tested 10,000 soil samples over the years.
  • In 1943, he identified streptomycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.
  • Drug companies caught on to it, and commissioned pilots, explorers, and foreign correspondents sent back soil samples as they traveled, collecting dozens of new antibiotics.
  • By 1970, researchers found themselves discovering the same molecules over and over.

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Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics may lose their ability to treat bacterial infections.

Scientists have been warning us about the alarming rise in drug-resistant bacteria, but it can be curbed.

  • Penicillin was the first widely-used antibiotic. It was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist.
  • He noticed that the staph cells he'd been studying in a petri dish had died, and an unusual mold was growing in it.
  • The mould was purified and tested in 1940, and later mass-produced.
  • By 1943, the US was supplying all the Allied forces with this miracle drug, which gave them an advantage in treating injuries.

Over the last 40 years, few new antibiotics were discovered. At the same time, bacteria are developing antibiotic resistance, where antibiotics are less able to damage the cells of bacteria.

  • Vancomycin was first prescribed in 1972, and then vancomycin-resistant bacteria surfaced in 1988.
  • Imipenem came out in 1985, and resistance was seen in 1998.
  • Daptomycin came out in 2003, and resistance was noticed by 2004.

Antibiotics work by attacking a bacteria cell. If the bacteria are not killed, the cell will fight for survival. The use of an antibiotic then increases the possibility of a bacteria cell mutating to gain resistance.

Resistant cells pass on the new coding to their offspring and to other bacteria. Some communities of cells have resistance to multiple antibiotics, known as superbugs.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the US are unnecessary.

Knowing that bacteria can build resistance, the best solution for ensuring that antibiotics stay effective is to use them sparingly.

In the US, 70 percent of all antibiotics sold are used to fight off infections in livestock and increase their growth. Antibiotics are used in the farming of fish, shrimp, and fruits like apples, pears, and citrus.

With the pandemic, many people are using antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizer gels, which is the right thing while the virus is a threat. In the long run, it could cause resistance to antibiotics.

A 2019 report from the World Health Organization pointed out that at least 700,000 people are dying of drug-resistant diseases each year.

The number could rise to 10 million annually by 2050, making antibiotic-resistant infections more deadly than cancer.

Artificial intelligence has helped to find the first new broad-spectrum antibiotic, named Halicin.

Halicin kills E.coli, M. tuberculosis, and others, and is effective against the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis and pneumonia. Halicin doesn't look like other antibiotics we are familiar with and doesn't appear to trigger mutations as other antibiotics do.

Next time you're sick, double-check with your doctor to ensure an antibiotic is necessary. If it is, follow the prescription instructions to kill the bacteria and prevent mutation.

You can also seek out antibiotic-free meat and plain soap rather than antibacterial ones. Plain soap is just as effective on virus particles.

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Western vs. Mediterranean diet

Western diet, typically high in animal fat and protein and low in fibre, increases the risk of cancer. The Mediterranean diet is high in fibre and low in red meat and has been likened with anti-inflammatory effects and an improved immune system.

This leads us to the conclusion that gut health, favoured by fibre, is a reason for longevity of people following the Mediterranean diet.

5

IDEAS

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Good and effective things are helpful at one level but when taken too far, can be destructive.

In 1946, Sir Alexander Fleming, a renowned microbiologist, stated that antibiotics (like penicillin) were so effective that it will be abused by the masses, resulting in bacteria mutating and becoming drug-resistant. His prophecy came true, and this new, mutated bacteria is a reality.

In 1915, an average American spent half of their weekly income on food.

Today, an average American spends 6 %, yet eating more than ever, mostly processed foods that contain added sugars.

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