Researchers from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University College London have published a study in the journal Chemical Science of the Royal Society of Chemistry, detailing their success in equipping Lactoferrin, a protein found in breast-milk, to destroy drug-resistant bacteria, The Guardian reports.
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Drug-resistant bacteria or superbugs are fast becoming a global concern, and governments everywhere tasks the pharmaceutical industry to get to the root of the matter by developing drugs to destroy the superbugs – something the drug industry has been struggling to achieve for years on end.
David Cameron of the UK set up a panel which predicted that about 10 million lives would be lost and nearly £700 billion spent annually by 2050 to treat superbugs unless they are curbed in earnest.
A tiny fragment that is less than a nanometer in width imbues Lactoferrin with its anti-microbial properties, making breast milk crucial to newborns since it effectively destroys bacteria, fungi, and certain viruses on contact.
Harvesting the protective fragment, scientists were able to reengineer it into a capsule containing virus-like agents that identify and target certain bacteria and destroy them on contact without in any way impacting on the surrounding human cells.
“The capsules acted as projectiles, with bullet speed and efficiency,” disclosed Hassan Alkassem, a student that carried out the project.
The research team believes the capsules could be used to develop treatments for ailments such as Ducheme muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and sickle-cell disease among others.
“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,” said Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England. “This is a global problem. I am optimistic about this. The science is crackable. It’s doable.”
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And Colin Garner, honorary professor of pharmacology at the University of York and head of charity organization Antibiotic Research UK lamented that world governments are not doing much to arrest the rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria, just as they have been lackadaisical with the threats of climate change.