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The ‘superantibiotics’ that could save us from bacteria apocalypse

With the rise of bugs that are resistant to virtually everything medical science can throw at them, scientists are now hoping to re-engineer existing antibiotics to make them thousands of times more powerful

Warnings about an impending post-antibiotic apocalypse have, over the last five years, grown increasingly stark, with estimates placing the annual number of mortalities from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections at 700,000 worldwide, a number that could rise to 10m in the next three decades.

The need for new classes of antibiotics has repeatedly been emphasised, with researchers turning to some of the most extreme environments on Earth in the hunt for new molecules. But finding broad-spectrum antibiotics that work against all classes of bacteria is challenging – and even if we discover new narrow-spectrum ones that work against particular strains, the likelihood of them becoming clinically available is slim. The economic realities of drug development mean that narrow-spectrum antibiotics aren’t cost-effective for pharmaceutical companies to produce.

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