Scientists are looking for new and effective ways to counter drug-resistant superbugs that have evolved recently. They have mapped the genetic codes of over 3,000 bacteria, including samples from Alexander Fleming’s nose and a dysentery-causing strain from a World War One soldier.
DNA extracted from deadly strains of dysentery, plague, and cholera was decoded as well. This came as a result of the efforts of researchers to comprehend the most dangerous diseases of the world so that new medicines could be developed.
Samples from Fleming were among over 5,500 bugs at NCTC (National Collection of Type Cultures). It is said to be one of the largest collections of clinically relevant bacteria. The first bacterium deposited was a Shigella flexneri known to cause dysentery. The strain was isolated from a World War One soldier in the year 1915.
Julian Parkhill of Wellcome Sanger Institute in Britain pointed out that accurate observation and comprehension of bacteria’s evolution starting from times before antibiotics till present-day strains show their ways of responding to the treatments. He co-led the concerned research.
According to experts, about 70% of bacteria are now resistant to a minimum of one antibiotic that’s in common use for treatment. This stat alone clarifies that the evolved superbugs evading drugs are one of the prime threats to modern-day medical science.
One of the most threatening diseases caused by these bacteria is tuberculosis which infects over 10.4 million people a year and took about 1.7 million lives in 2016! Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, is another serious risk, infecting 78 million people a year. World Health Organization said that this is becoming almost untreatable.
The genomic maps of the research will be published on NCTC’s website. These will be made available for free to researchers across the globe. The ambition is to develop new diagnostic tests, vaccines, and treatments.