To Complete or Not Complete (The Full Course of Antibiotics)

Author: Katie Wozniak

Editors: Tricia Garay, Charles Lu, and Shweta Ramdas

You may recall going to your doctor and being told to “complete the full course” of antibiotics that were prescribed to you. Over the last 70 years antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections. The CDC, FDA, and WHO have pointed out that some bacteria could remain in your system if you stop taking the prescribed antibiotics before completing the full course, even if you feel better. This remaining population consists of bacteria that could survive the antibiotics the best; this select group of resistant bacteria is then allowed to grow and re-infect you with a vengeance. However, a recently published article in one of the oldest medical journals questioned these age-old instructions and suggested alternatives. In the era of antibiotic overuse and resistant infections, should we still complete the full course of antibiotics?
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Spinach and siderophores, part 2: Getting the upper hand

Author: Ada Hagan

Editors: Alisha John, Scott Barolo

As we discussed last time, bacteria that infect the human body face a major challenge: iron, which is essential for bacterial growth, is hard to obtain from human tissues.  Many pathogenic bacteria solve this problem by deploying “stealth siderophores,” which steal iron from human iron-binding proteins while evading our defenses. In the battle between humans and pathogenic bacteria, our best weapons, antibiotics, are being weakened by widespread resistance. Is there a way to use bacteria’s need for iron against them?

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Superbugs and a new school year: How you can help slow antibiotic resistance

Author: Carrie Johnson

Editors: Ada Hagan, Irene Park

Whether you have heard about it or not, antibiotic resistance is a growing threat that affects us all.

For generations, we have benefited from antibiotics to fight bacterial infections that would otherwise threaten our lives.  Unfortunately, the effectiveness of antibiotics is increasingly at risk.  Bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics already have already taken a significant toll and the severity of the problem is only growing.  In the United States, it already costs us over 23,000 lives and an estimated $55 billion each year.

As we head into a new school year and the colder winter months when illness risks seem to rise, the timing couldn’t be better to remind you that everyone (yes, you!) plays a role in combating this growing problem of antibiotic resistance. But first we need to understand the basics of this problem, including the three major factors at play.

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Virus vs Bacteria: The grand scheme

Author: Ada Hagan

Editors: Patricia Garay, Ellyn Schinke, Irene Park

In “Virus vs Bacteria: Mortal combat” we learned that bacteriophage (phage) are a group of viruses that literally prey on bacteria and archaea. Phage fill a predatory role in their native ecosystems, helping to keep prey populations in check, in turn preventing exhaustion of available resources. We also explored in “Virus vs Bacteria: Enemy of my enemy” how humans can exploit these bacterial predators to be useful in a number of ways. But there’s quite a bit more to phage than meets the eye. New research is beginning to show us additional ecological impacts phage have on their environments—ones that can play a role in challenges humans face such as climate change and antibiotic resistance.

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The fecal frontier

By Kevin Boehnke

Written for the prompt: What is the most important fundamental mystery in biology today that, if unlocked by basic research, would yield the greatest dividends for human health?

Poop. For good reason (it harbors deadly pathogens), this ubiquitous, noxious substance provokes an instinctive reaction of disgust. Despite the near-universality of poop and fart jokes, humans have spent much time, energy, and money to avoid contact with feces. Yet poop has great potential to improve human health through medical treatments,prevent disease through microbiome maintenance, and mitigate effects of antibiotic resistance. A better understanding of poop could improve millions of lives and save billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs. Continue reading “The fecal frontier”