Ending antibiotic resistance

Because the medical profession has overprescribed antibiotics for decades, they’re becoming increasingly ineffective. The only harmful bacteria left alive are the ones resistant to the drugs that are supposed to kill them. Each year, 2 million people in the US become infected with resistant bacteria and 23,000 people die as a result.

Now the Tampa-based Moffitt Cancer Center has found a way toward a solution.

A common method to overcome resistance is to give antibiotics in a particular order. But, with hundreds of drugs and thousands of infectious germs, the process is often hit or miss — and experimenting with different sequences for different infections could take decades. 

Instead, Moffitt researchers are using math to defeat the bugs. 

Running computer models, the scientists found that 70 percent of the usual sequences of two to four antibiotics used to treat a common strain of E. coli will always fail to kill the bacteria. However, the remaining 30 percent are lethal to the infection. By finding and using just that 30 percent is, according to researchers, science can steer antibiotic resistance to an evolutionary dead end.

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