Scientists are in a battle to develop treatments faster than viruses develop barriers against them, but new research suggests putting pathogens at war with each other could be an effective way of countering existing drug resistance, as well as preventing it in the future.
In a study of mice infected with malaria, researchers combined traditional drug remedies with a manipulated version of a nutrient that the malaria parasites rely on.
Importantly, the resistant strain needed more of this particular nutrient than the drug-sensitive pathogen – so the pathogens that could ignore antibiotics ended up more hungry.
By restricting the nutrient supply, the team of researchers forced the drug-resistant parasites and the drug-sensitive parasites into competition with each other, eventually wiping out the infection.
“By taking advantage of competition between parasites inside a host, we managed to use an existing drug to successfully treat an infection, even when drug-resistant parasites were already there,” says biologist and lead researcher Nina Wale, now at the University of Michigan.
Drug resistance happens because pathogens, from bacteria to parasites, develop genetic mutations that shield them against treatment. Once that mutated pathogen survives, it can quickly replicate, rendering existing drugs ineffective. Via ScienceAlert