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Winnipeggers researching antibiotics alternative to fight growing bacteria immunity

Antibiotics are slowly becoming ineffective and researchers in Winnipeg are trying to find a solution.
Antibiotics are slowly becoming ineffective and researchers in Winnipeg are trying to find a solution. AP Photo/David Goldman

They are commonly prescribed to help fight infections but antibiotics are slowly becoming ineffective and researchers in Winnipeg are trying to find a solution.

“We are becoming resistant to them,” Dr. Grant Pierce, the executive director of Research at Albrechtsen Research Centre at St. Boniface Hospital said. “the bacteria will no longer be killed by the antibiotic. The bacteria resists it, pump out the antibiotic, and it is no longer effective.”

Last year the The World Health Organization sounded the alarm over a lack of new antibiotics capable of combating bacteria.

“The WHO identified multi-drug resistance in bacteria as one of the three greatest threats to life today,” Pierce told Global News.

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READ MORE: ‘Global health emergency’: We’re running out of antibiotics, the WHO warns

Pierce is part of a research team in Winnipeg working to find a new form of antibiotics before the current drugs become completely ineffective.

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“Your average life span around the late 1800’s was around 42,” He said. “We almost doubled that now. That is primarily because of antibiotics.”

“Obviously if you take the antibiotics away it will have a huge impact on you.”

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Pierce said the growing immunity of bacteria is because of two reasons.

READ MORE: Common conditions you might not need antibiotics for, but could get a prescription anyway

“We tend to be using it more than we should so bacteria are seeing antibiotic more than they perhaps should at stages when they really don’t need antibiotics,” he said. “The other issue is people don’t complete their regime like they are supposed to, not taking the amount or the length of time so instead of five days they only take it for one day and quit using it because they feel better and now it’s coming back as a much more viral strain than before.”

WATCH : Video shows how bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics

Terrifying video shows how bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics
Terrifying video shows how bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics

Unlike current antibiotics which focus on one target, Pierce’s research team is looking to create a medication that is broader.

“The antibiotic we have developed here is absolutely a new platform because it’s not hitting the traditional targets antibiotics hit,” he described. “This is hitting the energy hitting the bacteria so if it has no energy, it is going to die.”

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“That is the unique aspect of the particular aspect of the drugs we are developing.”

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His team is optimistic with the findings so far but it will still be several years before the drug could even be on the market.

READ MORE: New superbug resistant to 26 antibiotics killed U.S. woman, docs say in scary case study

“My guess by the time we get through animal trials and get into human trials we are looking at three to five years and if those go well antibiotics tend to be more successful in getting to the pharmacy and getting approved than other drugs.If that occurs we are looking at five years down the line before we got something.”

Without a successful alternative to current antibiotics, common cuts and scrapes could turn deadly.

“You could skin your knee and it gets infected. it could potentially be life threatening,” Pierce said.

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In an interview with Global News, Dr. Marc Sprenger, the director of the World Health Organization secretariat for antimicrobial resistance, said there is an immediate change people can look at making to keep antibiotics effective for longer.

“In general what we need to do is reduce the use of antibiotics in general, not only in the human population, but in the animal population as well,” Sprenger emphasized from Switzerland. “Only use antibiotics when it is really needed. Not for flu or an ear infections because often you don’t need to use antibiotics.”

The idea of people doing all they can do is critical in reducing the risk of drug resistant bacteria. Medical experts feel patients need to have a better understanding of how medicine works.

READ MORE: How superbugs are threatening Canada and the world

“Patients understanding the potential for resistance, understanding when you have a bacterial infection, making sure patients understand when they have viral infection and you don’t need antibiotics,” says Ryan Chan, a pharmacist at Exchange District Pharmacy.

On top of learning more about medication, the World Health Organization said vaccinations should be followed.

“One of the easy things that need to be done, is vaccination in particular of children, that will prevent bacterial infections. That’s of course the most elegant way to avoid the use of antibiotics,” Sprenger said. “Vaccination is very important.”

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