Tuesday, July 23, 2013

FAQ: How can we beat multi-drug resistance?

Each day there seems to be another report on the problem of multi-drug resistant strains of pathogens that cause a number of serious diseases. Although the most common approach to solve this problem is the development of new drugs a recent report finds that this approach may not be the best strategy.

Methicillin-resistant S aureus (yellow) being ingested by
neutrophil (purplish blue) [author: NIAID/NIH]
A mathematical study performed by scientists at Queen's University in Canada found that the best way to treat a disease is to slow down the evolution of the pathogens. They assume that each new drug is used to treat a disease until resistance evolves. Then a new drug will be used to treat the disease and the process is repeated. Slowing the rate of evolution will slow the development of resistance and increase the lifespan of an individual drug.

So how does one slow down evolution of resistance? The authors propose several possibilities including: reducing inappropriate use of anti-microbials and determining optimal dosage. It is most likely  that a combination of better practices and development of new therapies will be necessary to combat the ongoing problem of multi-drug resistance.

The authors paper can be found at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.7715