The battle against the rise of antibiotic resistance has taken one group of scientists back to an age-old method of tackling infection.
|Could the age-old practise of using maggots for wound treatment provide an antibiotic breakthrough?|
Scientists at Swansea University have discovered a new type of antibiotic in maggot secretions that can tackle up to 12 different strains of MRSA, as well as E. coli and C. difficile. The antibiotic – named Seraticin – is derived from the maggot secretions of the common green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) and the scientists hope to develop it into an injection or pill.
Professor Norman Ratcliffe, a principal researcher on the project at Swansea University, said: “It takes approximately 20 mugs of maggots to yield just one drop of purified Seraticin at present. Thus, the next stage will be to confirm its exact identity using mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance analyses in order for us to produce this chemically on a larger scale.”
The team have purified Seraticin and undertaken the study of its structure and the mechanism by which it prevents infection. The next steps will be to complete the identification of the compound and develop a way to synthesise it. It can then be tested on human cells and eventually in clinical trials in order to determine its medical effectiveness and properties as a novel antibiotic.
Dr Yolande Harley of Action Medical Research said: “The discovery of a potential new antibiotic is an exciting advance. It could mean a possible novel treatment for people with chronic wounds that are infected with MRSA or other bugs. By developing the pure antibiotic into a formula, such as a cream, it could reduce the contact patients need to have with live maggots to heal wounds. It could also offer a potential treatment, such as an injection or pill, for internal infections like C. difficile.”
Using live maggots on infected wounds is an old method of tackling infection – and they can work with amazing speed. It’s not uncommon for someone to suffer from chronic infected wounds for 18 months, despite all sorts of conventional treatment, but when maggots are applied to the same wound they can often begin to clear infection in just a few days.