Within weeks of the World Health Organisation (WHO) sounding the alarm on increasing antibiotic resistance, terming it as an emerging global health crisis, scientists at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, Canada, have reportedly discovered a peptide molecule that scores us a hit in the war on disease. The peptide 1018 acts on a range of bacteria, including many which are antibiotic-resistant. The peptide molecule prevents the bacteria from forming biofilms, highly structured communities of the pathogens which form over both living and non-living surfaces. This makes biofilms a crucial link in the spread of antibiotic resistance—hospital-acquired infections are mostly of multi-drug resistant strains, with one of the usual routes of transmission being repeat-use of hospital instruments like ventilators, etc, on which biofilms can form easily and survive.
Growing drug resistance is partly rooted in the fact that antibiotic discovery has slowed considerably in the last three decades—in the 1984, the US FDA approved 19 new antibiotics while, between 2010 and 2012, just 1. After having turned their focus on to chronic diseases in the last decade or so, major pharma companies are only now returning to antibiotics and it could be some time before any new discovery is announced. In the interim as also in the long run, research like the one that yielded peptide 1018 powers our fight against antibiotic resistance.