The growing resistance of antibiotics to common bacterial infections (like STI's) is an issue that has been capturing the headlines recently. The 'World Health Organisation' (WHO) has described antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats facing humans in the 21st century. It issued its first global global report on drug resistance, describing it as a serious threat to worldwide public health.
Much of the focus has been on the development of new antibiotics to combat the growing number of resistant bacterial infections. However, in a recent study, scientists at Exeter University found that alternating between antibiotics in a specified way could help prevent drug resistance. This surprising study has the potential to completely change the way we address the global health issue of drug resistance.
Combining antibiotic treatments is not new. For years, doctors have prescribed combination antibiotic treatments in high dosages in order to kill bacteria. However, the use of antibiotics in a timed and sequential treatment plan is something that has not been tried before. And one has to wonder why. One of the leading scientists commented 'this research should really have been done 50 years ago'.
Their research indicates that treatment with two antibiotics can be designed to kill an infection at a dosage level that would normally cause drug resistance. The use of a sequential treatment method could also potentially pave the way for the use of antibiotics that are currently considered ineffective. This is positive news, especially given the lack of research into new antibiotics by pharmaceutical companies.
One of the lead authors of the study stated 'one outcome of this highly surprising result will be to set in motion a series of studies to determine the ways of using antibiotics not only in combination, but sequentially and with the potential for lower dosages than is currently thought possible.'
Whilst this study has only been completed in a lab environment, the results are undoubtedly exciting and warrant further testing on humans. The answer for antibiotic resistance may not just lie in the development of new medication, but developing techniques to properly utilise the treatments that we currently have.