Journal Club: Suppressing Superbugs

Andrew F. Read and Lauren Richardson

Posted February 4, 2021

“Superbug” is shorthand for multi-drug resistant bacteria. Infections with superbugs are the most difficult to treat, because these bacteria have evolved ways of evading multiple — and sometimes all! — of our available antibiotics. This multi-drug resistance can arise in the bacteria that are causing disease, meaning doctors have to find new ways to treat the infection, but also in the bacteria that harmlessly live in our gastrointestinal tract. Critically, if these gut bacteria become superbugs, they can spread resistance throughout a hospital setting via fecal-oral contamination. On this episode of the Bio Eats World Journal Club, we discuss a new strategy for protecting those harmless bacteria from antibiotics while still treating the infection. Host Lauren Richardson is joined by Professor Andrew Read of Penn State University to discuss his team’s recent article “An adjunctive therapy administered with an antibiotic prevents enrichment of antibiotic-resistant clones of a colonizing opportunistic pathogen“, published in eLife. In it, they demonstrate that they can prevent resistance evolution in the gut by repurposing an old, FDA-approved drug. The conversation covers the scope of the antibiotic resistance problem, the insights that lead to the discovery of this adjuvant therapy, and the fundamentally novel nature of anti-evolution drugs.