Spectrometer Savior?

As humans have continually used antibiotics to treat various forms of bacteria over the years, the bacteria have gradually adapted to form resistance to said bacteria. A major issue with this for doctors and patients throughout the world is that we are running out of antibiotics to treat our patients with. In fact, there had been bacteria found that are resistant to a drug called Colistin, also known as the “last resort drug”. At the news of our “last resort” possibly not being as effective as it once was to treat bacterial disease, scientists began to scramble for more ways to treat infections. In spectrometers, they may have just found a way to at least slow down the effect of these newly resistant bacterial cells.

In a presentation at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), researchers Laurent Dortet, Gerald Larrouy-Maumus and Professor Alain Filloux, explained how the spectrometer may just be able to help identify these deadly bacteria. The bacteria they studied were two types of bacteria called Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae which are both part of the family Enterobacteriacae. These bacteria have become resistant to various types by antibiotics by producing antibiotic inactivating enzymes. These enzymes allowed the bacteria to be resistant to all types of antibiotics except for colistin. However, now some forms of these bacteria have developed two different types of resistance to colistin, chromosome-encoded resistance and plasmid-encoded resitance.

According to the researchers both types of resistance are worrying because of the ability of the resistances to spread to new bacterial cells, but the plasmid-encoded resistance is much more worrying. This is because this type of resistance can spread quickly and it has the ability to spread from the bacteria with the resistance to bacteria which is completely unrelated. The scientists worry that if this holds true then the drug known as the last resort will become useless.

In spectrometers, the scientists have found a way to possibly halt the spreading of the dangerous bacteria. Specifically, the scientists used something called a mass spectrometer. A mass spectrometer is something that is commonly found in hospitals and is used to determine the amounts of chemicals in certain samples. It does this by measuring mass-to-charge ratio. The researchers found that by using by using the mass spectrometer they can distinguish bacteria that have colistin resistance and which do not have colistin resistance and well as tell which have the plasmid-encoded resistance and which have the chromosome-encoded resistance. Once the researchers find these bacteria in the patient that they are working with the thought is that they will be able to stop the spread of the bacteria by possibly quarantining the patients.

According to the researchers the most significant thing about their findings is that the technique will be very cheap. In fact, the test only takes 15 minutes to complete and it only costs around one dollar per sample. The researchers are still working on patenting their technique so that it can be used in hospitals around Europe and the United States. They are also optimistic that by using this technology on veterinary samples they will possibly be able to find a drug that can once again allow for colistin to be effective against these bacteria.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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