Why antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotics are chemical substances with antibacterial properties that have a biological origin. They are among the most frequently prescribed classes of drugs, used to treat or prevent infectious diseases in humans and other animals. Bacterial resistance is the counterpart of antibiotic production, since both are microbial processes that co-evolve in nature. Many bacterial groups are intrinsically resistant to some antibiotics, a characteristic genetically determined and maintained in the genomes of the respective strains. A resistance phenotype can be related to a single gene or result from the complex interplay of several genes. The mechanisms of resistance are also varied and more than one mechanism of resistance to the same antibiotic can be present in the same strain.
Currently, the inappropriate use of antibiotics exerts an unnecessary selective pressure leading to increasing levels of antibiotic resistance among bacteria. Exchanges of genetic material promote the emergence of multiresistant bacteria.
And the risk is clearly not confined to health-care settings. Urban effluents and runoffs of agriculture settings serve as reservoirs of antibiotic molecules and pathogenic bacteria. Environmental water systems are also reactors for the spread and evolution of antibiotic resistance. Wild animals may be vehicles of antibiotic resistance bacteria. Global changes favors the development of pathogenic bacteria in natural settings and the demographic movements that accelerate bacterial transmission between populations Innovative approaches are needed in order to find new molecules or new targets to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria.
So, what about alternatives?
In this course we will approach two alternative therapies for bacterial control more capable to bypass the resistance mechanism.
Phage therapy is an eco-friendly alternative approach to prevent and control pathogenic bacteria. This therapy consists in the application of bacteriophages (viruses capable of infecting bacteria) to infect and kill unwanted bacteria. Its use, however, requires the understanding of kinetics phenomena that are not important during conventional drug treatments.
Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT) is another alternative, recognized by its potential as a new form of antimicrobial treatment. It’s a non-antibiotic approach that combines a nontoxic photosensitizer (a chemioluminescence compound) with visible light to generate oxygen related compounds able to oxidize microbial vital constituents, resulting in lethal damage.
In this course you will have the opportunity to learn about bacterial life, genetics and how do resistances arise and are transmitted, talk about antimicrobial resistance in clinical, environmental and global context and the search for innovative approaches and new targets for therapy. Also you will have the opportunity to perform and observe the results of the alternative therapies mentioned above.