A research study led by European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) has revealed that the effectiveness of antibiotics is altered when they are combined with other antibiotics, non-antibiotic therapies or food additives.
The findings showed that for some bacterial species certain combinations did not allow the antibiotics to exert their full potential, while other combinations could start to address resistance.
The study profiled up to 3,000 drug combinations on three different disease-causing bacteria. Its main objective was to identify antibiotic combinations which could help to tackle multi-drug resistant bacterial infections.
Although the majority of the investigated combinations of antibiotics dampened the therapeutic effects, more than 500 out of the total combinations improved antibiotic outcomes.
When tested in multi-drug resistant bacteria extracted from infected hospital patients, these positive combinations are reported to have led to better drug side effects.
EMBL group leader Nassos Typas said: “Antibiotics can lead to collateral damage and side effects because they target healthy bacteria as well.
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“But the effects of these drug combinations are highly selective, and often only affect a few bacterial species. In the future, we could use drug combinations to selectively prevent the harmful effects of antibiotics on healthy bacteria.”
Typas added that the selective effect would also mitigate development of antibiotic resistance.
During the study, the team combined an antibiotic called spectinomycin with the vanillin food additive. Spectinomycin is usually not used due to the development of bacterial resistance but in combination with vanillin it was found to have entered bacterial cells and inhibited their growth.
It is now expected that vanillin can help spectinomycin become clinically relevant once again for the treatment of disease-causing microbes.