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New Zealand Finds Way to Combat Superbugs; Global Health Crisis a ‘Man-Made Threat’

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By Reissa Su | July 25, 2014 1:02 PM EST

The battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria is far from over as scientists in Wellington, New Zealand continue their quest. According to reports, microbiologists from Victoria University are working on new and cheap drugs to address the growing global health problem.

REUTERS
Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). REUTERS/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Handout via Reuters

The scientists aim to develop affordable antibiotics that drug-resistant bacteria or "superbugs" cannot detect and exposing them to the drug's healing power. Biotechnologist David Ackerley is monitoring the progress of the research. He compared the "war" against superbugs to an arms race that need constant development of new artillery and ammunition.

Ackerley explained that if the enemies have tanks and people only have rifles, there is a need to make bullets that can penetrate the armor.

In the new study, scientists have identified new ways in which microbes commonly found in antibiotics can be reengineered to create modified forms of original molecules. The findings suggest that by rearranging the enzymes of a particular antibiotic, a different drug can be produced which superbugs will not recognise.

According to scientists, the new drug can still fight infection. If it is used to target drug-resistant bacteria, the superbugs may finally be beaten.

Ackerley believes part of the threat of superbugs is that people may have been "careless" in using antibiotics which has allowed bacteria to develop immunity and multiply. He said options may be running out since there was a "serious and immediate" need to develop new antibiotics.

Deborah Williamson, a clinical microbiologist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, said drug-resistant bacteria is considered "one of the biggest man-made health threats of the modern age." She stated that New Zealand was fortunate because drug-resistant bacteria rates were "relatively low" compared to other parts in the world like Asia.

Reports said medical experts have been calling on the governments to create a global response against the rise of bacteria resistance to antibiotics and other drugs. They warned the world may one day face a future where simple virus infection can no longer be treated with drugs and eventually turn into deadly diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the world may be entering a post-antibiotic era. The so-called "wonder drugs" may no longer be useful in eliminating superbugs.

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(Photo: REUTERS / NIAID/Handout via Reuters)
Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colorized transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). REUTERS/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Handout via Reuters
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