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Common fungus compound could help fight antibiotic resistance

File photo courtesy: United Soybean Board/Flickr Creative Commons

File photo courtesy: United Soybean Board/Flickr Creative Commons

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 6:53 PM - Researchers from Ontario's McMaster University have discovered that a compound commonly found in soil and mold may help win the battle against 'super bugs'.

In April, the World Health Organization issued its first report on the problem of antibiotic resistance -- and the findings were grim.

"The invention of antibiotics has been an incredible boon for human civilization, allowing us to treat illnesses and diseases that have caused widespread death in the past," Weather Network digital meteorologist Scott Sutherland wrote at the time.

"However, a growing problem has been the threat of antibiotic resistance. As these medications kill off the bugs in our system that are making us sick, they don't always kill them all. Those bugs that survive exposure to the antibiotics can develop a resistance to them, and pass on that resistance to their descendants. Since new generations of these microbes can be produced in mere hours, this can quickly develop into a situation where the bugs are always one step ahead of our medical professionals."

RELATED: Are we losing the battle against antibiotic resistance?

Last week, scientists announced that they may have made some headway in the war against 'super bugs', courtesy of a soil sample taken from a Nova Scotia park.

It turns out that aspergillomarasmine A (AMA), a common compound found in soil and mold fungus, has the ability to 'turn off' a gene that makes several strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Researchers are now planning experiments that will help determine the safety and dosage of AMA required to fight antibiotic resistance.

Human trials could follow within ten years. 

If the research proves to be viable, it could revolutionize medical science. Common infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance spreads.

According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 2 million people are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S. each year, leading to 23,000 deaths.

The complete McMaster study was published last week in the journal Nature.

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