Computer Scientists May Have Just Found A Solution For Deadly Superbugs

A computer program designed by two scientists could one day be a weapon in the fight against antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Using complex algorithms, biologist Miriam Barlow of the University of California, Merced and mathematician Kristina Crona of American University in Washington, D.C. were able to prevent and actually reverse antibiotic resistance in a lab setting.

The discovery is exciting because antibiotic-resistant infections are some of the most pressing research concerns in modern medicine. These mutated bacteria, such as MRSA, C. diff and more, have the power to turn back the clock on all of the advances we’ve made since the advent of antibiotics.

To put the problem to scale, at least 2 million people are infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteriain the U.S., and 23,000 people die each year as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The global threat of antibacterial resistance is expected to get worse over time.

Currently, the way doctors fight drug-resistant infections is to start treating them with the most commonly used antibiotics and then cycle through increasingly rarely used antibiotics. Often, the first few drugs are ineffective and, in a worst-case scenario, doctors may end up using antibiotics that even increase an infection’s resistance to medicine.

Here’s how the software test worked: Barlow focused on a single gene in E. coli bacteria that is responsible for making the organism resistant to our arsenal of antibiotics. Together with Crona, she devised a mathematical formula that matched known antibiotics to the bacteria at several stages of the mutation process. The matching process, which is faster and more exacting than a doctor’s intuition, spit out the optimal order of antibiotics to “cycle” through in order to prevent resistance. The matching process worked so well that —> Read More