Combining antibiotics may stave off future superbugs
The idea that combining antibiotics that don’t work well to create a single treatment that does is, well, counterintuitive to say the least. But a research letter published in Nature Wednesday demonstrates that different antibiotics can be combined and work together against a bacterial infection—even when these antibiotics can’t fight infections on their own.
Combining antibiotics to fight antibacterial resistance has huge implications for the potential treatment of bacterial illnesses like pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, and even the success of chemotherapy and post-organ transplant therapy, which rely on antibiotics in order to work. According to the Center for Disease Control, 23,000 people die each year due to bacterial infections resistant to antibiotic treatment.
Researchers were able to combine the antibiotics thanks to bacterial synergies, which is just a fancy word for when different strains exchange their waste products—allowing the species to not only coexist, but be more likely to survive together. Harnessing synergies to fight antibiotic resistance has been researched for years, but this research reviewed 3,000 combinations of antibiotics, revealing that some of the most common antibiotics (E. coli, S. Typhimurium and P. aeruginosa) can effectively work together with other strains 11-19 percent of the time.
Ostensibly, the antibiotic combinations may solve some of our issues related to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, at least until the superbugs become resistant to all of the combinations, too.