© The Country
Spanish biotechnologist and immunologist César de la Fuente, together with a research team, has succeeded in turning wasp venom into a synthetic antibiotic that eliminates multidrug-resistant bacteria. The research results are promising, because 80 percent of the mice that were given the antibiotic in the study survived an infection with resistant bacteria.
Medicine can save millions of lives
In the study, De la Fuente rearranged the molecular structure of the wasp venom making it harmless to humans, but deadly to resistant bacteria. If approved, the drug can be used for hundreds of different types of infectious diseases and can save millions of lives worldwide.
José Miguel Cisneros, head of the Infectious Diseases Department at the Hospital Virgen del Rocío in Seville, is enthusiastic about the research results from de la Fuente. According to Cisneros, this is a distinctive and innovative approach to one of the biggest issues in global healthcare.
Untreatable infections are the leading cause of death
Due to the lack of an effective and safe antibiotic, more than 35,000 people die each year in Spain alone from an infection with multi-resistant bacteria. Worldwide, this is 700 thousand per year, a number that will increase considerably in the future without the arrival of an effective drug. According to a WHO calculation, in 2050 without effective antibiotics, 10 million people per year will die from an untreatable infection. In thirty years, infection with multi-resistant bacteria will thus become the number one cause of death.
De la Fuente reports that the antibiotic effect of the wasp venom, known in scientific circles as Vespula Lewisii, has been known for many years, but its extreme toxicity has prevented its medicinal use until now. By rearranging the molecules in the poison, de la Fuente succeeded in eliminating this harmful effect.
The wasp venom is not only antibiotic, but also has anti-inflammatory properties. This makes the effectiveness of the wasp venom even stronger, because infections always provoke inflammatory reactions. It is precisely these inflammatory reactions that can cause people to become seriously ill and eventually die.
It is the first time that animal poison has been used in the development of an antibiotic. The next step in the research is the preclinical phase, in which the antibiotic is tested on test subjects. This testing phase will still take some time, but if all goes well, this drug could save millions of lives worldwide.