May 11, 2017 05:52 AM EDT
As science and technology advances, some of the old methods are considered obsolete yet, there are also ancient methods that still prove to be effective. Two of these methods effectively treat infections much better than antibiotics. What more, they have less side effects that might harm the body.
Two recent studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2017 conference last April welcomed the comeback of these two ancient methods of treating infections, even before antibiotics was introduced. These methods involved the use of silver and the mucus to combat these bacteria.
The Silver Bullet
A 2013 study led by Joe Lemire, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, indicated that a number of silver compounds proved to be effective in killing different types of bacteria strains, even those that resisted antibiotics.
Lemire and his team used a combination of silver and antibiotics to eliminate some species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They said that silver has the ability to increase the free radicals and make the bacterial wall more permeable so that antibiotics can easily enter and do their work.
Even during ancient times, silver had been commonly used by physicians to prevent infections and to make wounds heal faster. It was even used to protect food and water from bacterial contamination.
Aside from using silver and antibiotics together, Lemire and his team are taking advantage of the gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, to identify the bacterial genes that make them vulnerable and resistant to silver.
By understanding how bacteria becomes resistant allows scientists to develop more effective methods to eliminate them.
Body's Natural Defense System
Another effective method is more ancient than silver because it has been inside the human body for a long time - mucus.
A team of researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has discovered that mucins, polymers found in mucus, trap bacteria and render them harmless.
Katharina Ribbeck, the lead author of the study and the Eugene Bell Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering, said that their team is engineering synthetic mucus which can be used to control the growth of bacterial strains that have become resistant to antibiotics.
They tested this on two types of Streptococcus bacteria - one group was "healthy" bacteria while the other was harmful - which are found in the mouth. When they grew the bacteria without the mucins, the harmful bacteria overpowered the healthy ones very fast.
On the other hand, when they were placed with MUC5B, a type of mucin found in the saliva, they growth became more balanced. Ribbeck said that the mucins 'tamed' the harmful bacteria so that they will not dominate the healthy ones.
With these two findings showing how two ancient methods can still effectively eliminate and control such bacteria strains, people can be less dependent on antibiotics. It also provides hope that there must be more antibiotic-free alternatives to protect the body against these deadly microorganisms.
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