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Learning to fight an adversary that won't stay down

e ever realized," says Dr. Davies. "There are more than 300 genes now known that confer resistance to one or more antimicrobials. And they keep coming."

However, the mapping of bacterial genomes has not yet helped yield solutions to the problem, says Dr. Davies.

He adds that our understanding of the activity of microbes must extend beyond the newspaper headlines reporting outbreaks of these "superbugs," so that we can put the role of these organisms in the proper evolutionary perspective. This subject, and antibiotic resistance in particular, has fascinated Davies since he began postdoctoral work on antibiotics and resistance mechanisms at Harvard Medical School in the early 1960s.

"The microbes are evolving genetically, and the pharmaceutical companies are evolving chemically; the two don't match," says Dr. Davies, adding that doctors who deal with microbial diseases in hospitals must remain cautious about exposing the bacterial pathogens to the newest and most effective drugs so as to avoid overuse and the accompanying onset of resistance.

"There are a relatively small number of antibiotics that have come out that are new, and some of them are very potent and act against most resistant strains," he says. "But the clinicians rightly try to keep these things in reserve for when they are really needed."


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Source:Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


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