Science Trends: B. infantis EVC001 Reduces the Genes in Bacteria That Cause Antibiotic Resistance By 90 Percent
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today,” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.” It’s estimated that it costs the US healthcare system alone an estimated $5 billion. More importantly, more than two million people in the U.S. develop antibiotic-resistant infections annually. The worldwide figures are much worse — 200,000 infants die each year globally as a result of such infections.
Despite stark warnings, there does not appear to be any evidence that overuse of antibiotics — whether through prescriptions, non-approved use, or use on livestock — is decreasing, so we may expect the problem to get worse unless we find effective new approaches, and some are predicting that the death toll could rise to 10 million a year.
Limiting the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) — the genes that essentially turn normal pathogens into what are commonly referred to as “superbugs” — is tricky. Aside from being difficult to kill, simply following the conventional approach of looking for more powerful drugs presents the possibility that harmful bacteria will eventually adapt to those treatments as well, ultimately creating even more deadly strains. This leaves the global healthcare community with few options for dealing with this issue. On the other hand, discovering a way to reduce antibiotic resistance without triggering additional resistance could save millions of lives worldwide.
Healthy babies can be vectors for spreading antibiotic resistance-carrying genes
We know that antibiotic resistance genes are acquired in early life and can have long-term sequelae, but what’s alarming is that in larger hospitals – where microbes are likely to develop antibiotic resistance – 40% of infections in newborns currently resist standard treatments. The situation may in fact be even more alarming than that. Our study, published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, found higher than expected levels of antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) in healthy, breastfed infants. Many of the organisms identified as carriers of ARGs are causative agents of very serious conditions such as EOS, LOS, and NEC.
This means that otherwise healthy infants not only have a higher risk of developing untreatable infections later on, but also that they may be vectors in the spread of antibiotic resistance gene-carrying bacteria to their caregivers and family-members.