Science Pops Open, Ep. 16: From Childhood Illness to Innovative Antibiotics

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

When Agata was eight years old, she spent more than half a year in the hospital, fighting off a bacterial disease that the standard antibiotics couldn’t beat. Today, Dr. Agata Starosta is determined to tackle the increasingly serious threat to society that is antibiotic resistance. New strategies are desperately needed, so she has departed from the usual tactic of disrupting basic bacterial functions. Instead, she aims to block the ability of the harmful ones to invade our bodies.

Cet article existe également en français : https://www.mysciencework.com/news/12078/science-pops-open-ep-16-de-la-maladie-d-enfance-aux-antibiotiques-innovants

 

When Agata was eight years old, she spent more than half a year in the hospital, fighting off a bacterial disease that the standard antibiotics couldn’t beat. Thanks to a clinical trial for a new drug, the little girl recovered. Today, Dr. Agata Starosta is determined to tackle the increasingly serious threat to society that is antibiotic resistance. As more and more disease-causing bacteria change to escape our principal weapons against them, they become resistant to the major antibiotics. New strategies are, thus, desperately needed. Dr. Starosta has departed from the usual tactic of disrupting basic bacterial functions (which affects good bacteria as much as bad). Instead, she aims to block the ability of the harmful ones to invade our bodies.

 

She is particularly interested in one specific factor, called EF-P, that helps build proteins and is necessary for our microscopic opponents to make us sick. In fact, all bacteria have EF-P, but it differs across species. This means that new antibiotics could be designed very precisely to block specifically tuberculosis, meningitis, or another bacterial disease, while leaving the healthy bacteria in our digestive system, for example, untouched. Dr. Starosta’s work so far has revealed the intimate details of EF-P: how it is produced and operates within bacterial cells. This is information that the development of new antibiotics could be built upon, as researchers take aim at these steps underlying bacterial infection. By helping us stay ahead of disease-causing bacteria, Agata’s research could well contribute to shortening hospital stays, decreasing treatment side effects and even curing potentially deadly infections, as she herself was once cured.

Past Episodes of Science Pops Open:

Ep. 1 – Your body can defend itself against cancer. It just needs a little help!, with Margot Cucchetti 

Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan

Ep. 5 – Optimizing Welfare…and Equality, with Sean Slack

Ep. 6 – Awaiting Balance in the Adolescent Brain, with Kiki Zanolie

Ep. 7 – Come Drought or High Water, with Luciano Raso

Ep. 8 – Taking European Tornadoes by Storm, with Bogdan Antonescu

Ep. 9 – Learning to Tackle Climate Change Together, with Sandrine Sidze

Ep. 10 – Nourish the Children of Urban Slums, with Sophie Goudet

Ep. 11 – In Money Matters, We're Only Human, with Jeroen Nieboer

Ep. 12 – A Depressed Sense of Smell?, with Kalliopi Apazoglou

Ep. 13 – Climate Shifts Carried on a River of Air, with Nikolaos Bakas

Ep. 14 – Something in the Air Down There, with Fulvio Amato

Ep. 15 – Foretelling a Complex Future for our Complex Ecosystems, with Phillip Staniczenko

Ep. 17 – Plants & Poisons: Assessing Contamination in Our Environment, with Natalia Ospina-Alvarez

Ep. 18 – Voice of a storm surge, with Emiliano Renzi