Over the past few decades, many bacteria have become resistant to existing antibiotics, and few new drugs have emerged. A recent study from a U.K. commission on antimicrobial resistance estimated that by 2050, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections will kill 10 million people per year, if no new drugs are developed. To help rebuild the arsenal against infectious diseases, many scientists are turning toward naturally occurring proteins known as antimicrobial peptides, which can kill not only bacteria but other microbes such as viruses and fungi. A team of researchers at MIT, the University of Brasilia, and the University of British Columbia has now engineered an antimicrobial peptide that can destroy many types of bacteria, including some that are resistant to most antibiotics. “One of our main goals is to provide solutions to try to combat antibiotic resistance,” says MIT postdoc Cesar de la Fuente. “This peptide is exciting in the sense that it provides a new alternative for treating these infections, which are predicted to kill more people annually than any other cause of death in our society, including cancer.” Dr. De la Fuente is the corresponding author of the new study, and one of its lead authors, along with Osmar Silva, a postdoc at the University of Brasilia, and Evan Haney, a postdoc at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Timothy Lu, an MIT Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and of Biological Engineering, is also an author of the paper, which was published online on November 2, 2016 in Scientific Reports.
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