lechuguilla_cave-dave-bunnell-wikiLechuguilla Cave in the Carlsbad Caverns, NM Photo credit Dave Bunnell via Wikimedia

How significant are antibiotic-resistant superbugs?  Significant enough for the World Economic Forum (WEF) to describe them as one of the greatest risks to human health.  The Forum estimates that antibiotic resistant infections cost the US health care system between $21,000,000.000 and $51,000,000,000 per year.  The infections account for the majority of the 99,000 annual deaths in hospital-related infections in North America.

Scientist/microbiologist/spelunker Hazel Barton of the University of Akron discovered a bacterium that has the potential to attack superbugs and eliminate the pandemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which include the deadly MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Barton found the rare strain at a depth of 1600 feet in the Lechuguilla Cave in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and deposited it in a lab at Cubist Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Unlike most pharmaceutical companies, Cubist hasn’t abandoned searching for new and effective antibiotics in the natural world.  Its current best seller, Cubicin, is an effective antibiotic against MRSA and should secure about 10% of the total antibiotics market for Cubist in 2014.

However, it’s in the character of bacteria such as MRSA to find ways to mutate and resist antibiotics.  To protect against that eventuality, Cubist will develop Barton’s find as a backup.

Source:  Smart Planet Daily, February 27, 2013     

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