Sheffield, England. (CBS) - British scientists have discovered a new compound that finds and kills 'superbugs,' the potentially fatal infections that antibiotics can't treat. Tens of thousands of people around the world die from superbugs each year.
CBS Correspondent Ian Lee asked Professor Jim Thomas of the University of Sheffield's Department of Chemistry - how concerned should we be about superbugs?
According to Professor Thomas, “The way it's going, it's like a freight train coming toward us and we aren't doing anything."
Superbugs are bacteria like E. coli and MRSA that evolve to resist current antibiotics. Health officials predict they could kill more than 10 million people a year by 2050, putting patients at risk of deadly infections during everyday procedures. Professor Thomas said, "Imagine very common operations like hip replacements, knee replacements. Things like child birth will become a major medical problem."
But scientists at England's University of Sheffield say there is hope.
PHD student Kirsty Smitten accidentally discovered a potential superbug breakthrough while researching cancer fighting drugs. Smitten said, "We didn't know if it would work on bacteria and then we just suddenly got a hit and it did work, so it was a bit of a surprise." This experimental compound is the latest weapon in their arsenal. Microscopic images show how it successfully attacks, infiltrates, and kills superbugs.
So far they’ve tested their discovery on insects. The work is costly and time consuming and human trials are still years away. Smitten said, “If it makes it through clinical trials, then yeah, there’s no reason way it couldn’t save as many lives as penicillin has saved.” And if approved, it’ll keep doctors one step ahead in the war against superbugs. Researchers say if all goes well, this new drug could be in your local pharmacy or hospital within 10 years.