DARPA calls for antibiotic replacement

November 23, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Penicillin, the first natural antibiotic discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928

(Medical Xpress) -- Most everyone that has been keeping abreast of world events knows that the clock is ticking on antibiotics; bacteria have been slowly developing a resistance and development of new antibiotics has slowed to a crawl, thus the day will soon come that all of the tools were are currently using to fight bacterial infections will be lost, leaving everyone at their mercy. This problem has not gone unnoticed by those at the upper reaches of the military establishment in the United States, thus it should not come as a surprise to anyone that DARPA, via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to completely replace antibiotics with something new and better.

As noted in the RFP, the military has seen firsthand the problems with current antibiotics; soldiers experiencing in war, especially those involved in fires, that develop bacterial infections now require triple the amount of hospital time to recover as doctor’s plow through a host of in trying to find the one that will work. Clearly frightened at the prospect of sending soldiers into battle where they may encounter bioengineered bacterial agents, the top brass has decided it’s time to take another approach and to get on it now.

Instead of working to develop , DARPA proposes the development and use of so-called nanoparticles to deliver gene altering chemicals directly to the cells of bacteria to kill them. In addition, they are hoping that someone will be able to come up with a way to make it so that the nanoparticles and chemicals they carry can be reprogrammed on-the-fly so as to combat newly evolved or created bacteria as soon as they appear. The idea is that the nanoparticles would carry something called small interfering RNA (siRNA) which are groups of molecules that would actually do the work of shutting down the genes inside the cells of the bacteria.

DARPA has laid out the project in three phases: Study what’s out there now, develop the nanoparticle delivery system and siRNA, and devise a means for rapidly reprogramming them.

On its face, the project seems rather simple, after all, this is not science fiction, DARPA points out that just last year a research group used siRNA delivered by nanoparticles to kill the Ebola virus in four primates. Unfortunately, the problem is, it’s not as easy as it looks, all of this science is still in its infancy and if a way can be found to do what is being asked, it likely will take years, if not decades to fully develop. The success against the Ebola virus was one agent against just one virus in a structured environment. To do what DARPA wants would mean using one technique to kill any and all bad and/or viruses. Also, if it can be done, no one really knows if the procedure would be reprogrammable, much less whether it could be done on-the-fly, so it’s not really clear if anyone will be able to achieve what is asking for; though it seems for the sake of all of us, we better hope so. Turning back the clock to a time when we were helpless against the onslaught of bacterial infections would be difficult to swallow, to say the least.

Explore further: Computer simulations aid understanding of bacterial resistance against commonly used antibiotics

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not rated yet Nov 23, 2011
If successful, these methods could be tailored to cure all disease... at some point there will be ethical discussions about who gets access to things like that
2.5 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2011
If the DARPA project doesn't fly, then we all have to learn to eat our veggies and exercise so that our natural defenses work properly. And we have to learn to be careful so we don't physically hurt ourselves, or others.

But who am I kidding? We all know that this is what we should already be doing and we don't, so this new reason won't change anything.
4 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2011
Can't they make a chainsaw with nano particles or motors or whatever? Then no bacteria could resist them---
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2011
If the DARPA project doesn't fly, then we all have to learn to eat our veggies and exercise so that our natural defenses work properly. And we have to learn to be careful so we don't physically hurt ourselves, or others.

But who am I kidding? We all know that this is what we should already be doing and we don't, so this new reason won't change anything.

The reason DARPA wants this isn't to protect people against things a regular immune system will help you with. It's to protect against new bio-engineered diseases created as weapons. I think the people designing such diseases will make them powerful enough that broccoli isn't going to do the trick.

Also *preach preach preach*.

Can't they make a chainsaw with nano particles or motors or whatever? Then no bacteria could resist them---

Then they have to make a little Bruce Campbell out of nano-particles. Do you know how hard that would be?!
4 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2011
If so many people were not Mysophobes, this would not be such a big issue. We spend so much time killing off pathogens and microbes that our bodies need to prepare themselves for fighting disease, forgetting how antibodies work.
Our homes do not need to be sterile. Our kids do not need to be protected from germs. By trying to "protect" ourselves, we only put ourselves in more danger...
1 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2011
DARPA is just playing with us. They have known how to fight germs for 50 years.

-Not covered by obamacare unfortunately.
not rated yet Nov 28, 2011
The biggest problem is that corporate cartel farmers will buy them up and feed them to cattle so they can eat even MORE BST to artificially increase milk production ever more from ever fewer cows with ever narrower population wide genetic diversity. Ordinarily the ultimate end of this is a simple disease kills the entire population virtually overnight. Now an engineered germ passed in milk to us whacks a significant proportion of us. All the enemy need to do is put an 'operative' in as a 'slave' wage alien on a corporate farm with a stock of 'stuff'. Who clears or vets a person making nothing from a society that has it all? Who could. With those who have no stake in a society; conversely that society has no stake in them. I see armies of al qeeda creepin out of the ground to work on these places. Even now the services cannot security vet its menial workers in jobs it loves to 'outsource' to civilians 'to save money'(GS14's gettin bribes from contractors).
not rated yet Nov 29, 2011
It's sad to see that drug companies focus more on profit than what's really important. Drugs for chronic diseases are more profitable when compared to infections. That is why there has not been further research in antimicrobial susceptibility. Physicians are partly to blame for this microbial resistance. If they were not so lax on antibiotic distribution we would not be experiencing resistance to antibiotics at this level. I hope the era of antibiotics doesn't end this soon.
not rated yet Dec 04, 2011
Darpa do you read this?
There is another superior technology to antibiotics already...Phage Therapy. Phages can kill strains that are resistant through biofilms; Now that there is a form of gonorrhea that resist all antibiotics this technology should be combined with nano-particles and SiRna and genetic therapy... Phages can be used to ingect sirna to silence the genes that cause antibiotic resistance!, then the antibiotics can be used in smaller doses to finish the job... get to work darpa
not rated yet Dec 08, 2011
read "The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat"...Flemming only discovered the general phenomenon but Florey and Chain elucidated the actual molecule and worked out the purification process that saved countless GIs in WWII. targeted therapy is the name of the game for the future..evolved ligands to recognize target molecules on pathogens....the details are currently being worked out but the future is here

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