Superbug Current Affairs

Scientists ‘unmask’ superbug-shielding protein

Scientists from University of Western Australia have successfully mapped three-dimensional molecular structure of EptA protein that shields superbugs from antibiotics.

The EptA protein causes multi-drug resistance by masking bacteria from both the human immune system and important antibiotics.

Key Facts
  • The shape of protein was mapped using technique called X-ray crystallography which is mainly used for determining the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal.
  • The protein, EptA, allows some strains to shrug off colistin, a last antibiotic available in the world for treating infections when all other antibiotics fail.
  • Significance: This mapping is a breakthrough because it will allow development of a drug to prevent superbugs hiding from medication. Thus, it open door to combating the threat of antibiotic resistance and is considered as a huge step forward in the global fight against superbugs. 
Background

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infections caused multi-drug resistant bacteria kills around 700,000 people each year. This figure is predicted to rise 10 million by 2050 justifying warnings of so-called antibiotic apocalypse which could be among the 21st Century’s greatest threats. A colistin-resistant strain of bacteria uncovered in 2015 is one of the grave concerns for health authorities. The spread of genes containing the colistan-resistant protein may make previously treatable bacterial infections untreatable.

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193 countries sign declaration to stamp out drug-resistant infections

The 193 countries of the United Nations (UN) have signed a landmark declaration to rid the world of drug-resistant infections or Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs.

It is the fourth time a UN declaration has been reached on a health issue, following HIV in 2001, non-communicable diseases in 2011 and Ebola in 2013.

The signatory countries now have two years to submit action plan. These submitted plans are expected to address the seriousness and scope of the situation. It will also agree on sustainable, multisectoral approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance.

What is Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or superbugs?

  • Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs.
  • These microorganisms are also termed as “superbugs”. As a result, the medicines or drugs become ineffective and infections persist in the body futher increasing the risk of spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) Threats

  • AMR has become one of the biggest threats to global health and endangers other major priorities, such as human development.
  • All around the world, many common infections have become resistant to antimicrobial medicines used to treat them which resulted in longer illnesses and more deaths.
  • At the same time, not enough new antimicrobial drugs especially antibiotics are being developed to replace older and increasingly ineffective ones.

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