One of the most shocking (often overlooked) apocalyptic scenarios is the rise of superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, according tomedia New Atlas. But now, scientists have discovered a new potential treatment – and it’s been hidden in our skin.
Our bodies have done a pretty good job of fighting dangerous bacteria. The immune system is alert to invasive pathogens, but not always. As a result, researchers at the Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institute (InStem) and Unilever have found ways to increase this immune activity.
Even before bacteria enter the body, the immune system strengthens its defenses. Skin cells produce molecules called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which, as their name suggests, kill microorganisms before they become disease-causing. They fight bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi, and most importantly, these peptides are complex and target several different parts of the “intruder”, making it difficult for them to develop resistance.
The scientists in charge of the new study looked at the factors that regulated the process and found ways to speed up its development. Typically, antimicrobial peptides are produced when microorganisms come into contact with skin cells, and the team found that this is due to lower levels of protein called caspase-8. These molecules also seem to play a role in accelerating wound healing.
When they used molecular techniques to artificially lower caspase-8 levels, the researchers found that skin cells released more antimicrobial peptides. Controlling this mechanism may lead to the emergence of new drugs that prevent infection, which is particularly useful for people with weak immune systems.
This new potential weapon in our arsenal of antibiotics may sound promising, but not without its own shortcomings. Other scientists warn that using antimicrobial peptides will make them more resistant to our natural immune defenses, and that it could be worse than resistance.
But in order to prevent the possible future of 10 million people being killed by superbugs every year, it is important to explore all options. Antibacterial peptides may eventually become one of the many tools we can use, and thankfully, they are not the only tool in development.
The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.