Nova Scotia fungus breathes life into fight against superbugs

McMaster grad student Andrew King with fungal sample. PHOTO: MCMASTER UNIVERSITY/HO.

McMaster grad student Andrew King with fungal sample. PHOTO: MCMASTER UNIVERSITY/HO.

Published: June 25, 2014

A lowly soil fungus from Nova Scotia has provided scientists with a powerful new weapon against some of the most alarming microbes on the planet.

A molecule, which a team at McMaster University plucked from the fungus, is enabling them to kill “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics.

The molecule, aspergillomarasmine A or AMA, latches on to a protein inside the bacteria and “rips out” zinc rendering the superbugs defenceless against powerful antibiotics it could previously resist, says microbiologist Gerry Wright, who heads the team in Hamilton, Ont.

Once they uncovered AMA, the researchers teamed up with a British microbiologist and showed the fungal extract had the same effect on more than 200 superbugs that have been causing misery around the world.

Then to underscore AMA’s promise, the researchers showed that by using the fungal compound in combination with an antibiotic protected lab mice infected with an otherwise lethal strain of resistant pneumonia.

Scientists says the findings, to be reported Thursday in the Journal Nature, offer hope in the battle against resistant bacteria causing growing international alarm. Continue reading →

Superbugs are on the rise in Canada, but not as fast as WHO suggests

Drug resistant gonorrhea under a microscope. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRES/PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO

Drug resistant gonorrhea under a microscope.
PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRES/PUBLIC HEALTH ONTARIO

Published: May 1, 2014

A World Health Organization report on superbugs suggests Canada has one of highest rates of drug resistant gonorrhea in the world.

But Canadian health officials say they have no idea where the international agency got the data indicating 31 per cent of the microbes causing the sexually transmitted disease in Canada show resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, an antibiotic of last resort.

“We just don’t know where they pulled that number from,” says Michael Mulvey, who tracks resistant organisms for the Public Health Agency of Canada. Continue reading →

Canada phasing out antibiotic use in livestock

Canadian farmers use nearly 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics a year. PHOTO: LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILE

Canadian farmers use nearly 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics a year.
PHOTO: LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILE

Published: April 11, 2014

Amid growing international concern over the spread of superbugs on farms, slaughterhouses and supermarket meat counters, Health Canada is moving to phase out use of antibiotic growth promoters in Canadian livestock.

The drugs have been used for decades to spike the feed and water of chickens, pigs and cattle to boost their growth — “mass medication” that Canada’s top doctor, and many others, has said should stop.

In a statement Friday, Canadian drug producers say they have agreed with Health Canada “to phase out uses of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion.” The phase-out is expected to take three years. Continue reading →