Health

Pathogen-specific drugs are key: Nobel Laureate

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‘New antibiotics need to be developed’

Concerns surrounding antibiotic use, including environmental hazards and the appearance of multi-drug resistant bacteria, can be minimised by designing antibiotics that are specific to each species of pathogen, instead of using the broad-range antibiotics that are currently favoured, Ada E. Yonath, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009, said here on Saturday. She was delivering a talk on eco-friendly antibiotics at the 107th Indian Science Congress.

“I have started work on degradable antibiotics that are effective only for the target pathogen. This will reduce environmental hazards and combat the spread of resistance,” Prof. Yonath, who is with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

“The increasing appearance of multi-drug resistant strains, together with the negligible number of new antibiotic drugs that are presently undergoing development, is a big problem. We may soon revert back to the pre-antibiotic era, when simple pathogens could cause very severe infections. This may result in a 3.8% loss in global economy by 2050. Something has to be done,” she said.

Later, speaking to The Hindu, Prof. Yonath said that the danger of antibiotics is the potential damage that they cause to the microbiome. Changes to the composition of the human microbiome can cause disease, she said. Most antibiotics are made up of small, toxic, organic molecules that cannot be digested and are expelled into the environment, thus causing hazards, she said.

“They are so small that most purification facilities cannot catch them, so they penetrate irrigation systems and eventually come back to us. This feedback process contributes to the prevalence of antibiotic resistance,” she said. Species-specific drugs can mitigate the risks. She, however, said that the proposal is not without its challenges. “Diagnostic techniques must improve and drug companies must invest in the new antibiotics. Most drug companies may not be interested in investing in new antibiotics because it is expensive. We will have push for it,” she added.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 11:38:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/pathogen-specific-drugs-are-key-nobel-laureate/article30480635.ece

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