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Live antibiotics use bacteria to kill bacteria

Prescribing a predator could be the answer to multidrug resistance

10:49am, June 13, 2017
Bdellovibrio bacteria

BACTERIAL COMBATANTS Bdellovibrio bacteria (yellow) attack larger bacteria (blue), using the prey’s remains to replicate. Bdellovibrio microbes are a kind of living antibiotic.

The woman in her 70s was in trouble. What started as a broken leg led to an infection in her hip that hung on for two years and several hospital stays. At a Nevada hospital, doctors gave the woman seven different antibiotics, one after the other. The drugs did little to help her. Lab results showed that none of the 14 antibiotics available at the hospital could fight the infection, caused by the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Epidemiologist Lei Chen of the Washoe County Health District sent a bacterial sample to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria, CDC scientists found, produced a nasty enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, known for disabling many antibiotics. The enzyme was first seen in a patient from India, which is where the Nevada woman broke her leg and received treatment before returning to the United States.

The enzyme is worrisome because it arms bacteria against carbapenems, a group of last-resort antibiotics,

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