Whenever you head into a Hospital, you do it because you want to be cured. However, sometimes people leave the Hospital even sicker than they were when they entered it. Hospital infections and contaminations are a reality and, even though Health professionals do the most they can to avoid them, sometimes they are still there.
Why are Hospitals such perfect places to get one such infections? Well, for one thing, patients are obviously not in their best physical conditions, so they have reduced resistance. Also, these are places where generally there is always a large number of people, which is also great to spread these kind of diseases. This is a serious problem, causing almost 100,000 deaths each year in the United States and 25,000 across Europe.
The most common nocosomial infections (technical term for "Hospital-acquired infections") are mostly caused by a deficient hygiene. Given that the Hospital staff deal with several patients, going from one to another all the time, they can act as vectors spreading diseases. These infections can cause severe pneumonia and and infections of the urinary tract, bloodstream, and other parts of the body. Since they are treated using antibiotics, some antibiotic resistance is being documented - this resistance can lead to the arising of "superbacterias", which are resistant to all or the vast majority of the antibiotics we have right now.
Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacteria responsible for several of nocosomial infections, has presented some strains which are antibiotic resistant. Obviously, this presents a problem since, without having an antibiotic to administrate to the patients, bacteria will keep growing and dividing, ultimately killing the patients. Fortunately, a new study developed in Brazil showed promising results with a coral, which hopefully will be used to produce a new antibiotic to which these bacteria are not resistant.
Áthila Bertoncini (athilapeixe.com)
The Phyllogorgia dilatata coral is found profusely across the Brazilian coast. In this study, titled "Identification of a novel antimicrobial peptide from Brazilian coast coral Phyllogorgia dilatata" and published this year on the "Protein and Peptide Letters" journal, researchers have extracted and purified some biomolecules from that coral and concluded that it has showed great results fighting bacterial infections, not only the ones related to Klebsiella pneumoniae but also Staphylococcus aureus and Shigella flexneri. The research was performed in the Universidade Católica Brasileira (Brazilian Catholic University) by professors from this Institution and from National Museum/UFRJ. It is part of the Live Coral Research Network (Rede de Pesquisas Coral Vivo), a project sponsored by Petrobras.
Researchers believe that, since these corals survive in the extremely competitive marine environments, they have developed important survival strategies, such as chemical barriers. One of such barriers are the antimicrobial peptides, the compounds used in this study. The next steps in this research are to produce this compounds in larger scales, since naturally they appear in small quantities. However, we should not expect to have some kind of drugs related to this study in the short future - further tests and trials will be required for that to happen, which will always take no less than a decade from now on. Anyway, is reassuring to know that we (humanity) are finding ways to deal with this new and fearsome "superbacterias".