A One Health approach to antimicrobial resistance

One health seminar series 3/21/19 - Louis Mason
Louis Mason /THE REVIEW
Above: Sara Bozaco explaining horizontal gene transfer, the main mechanism for the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

BY Staff Reporter

This article is the second part of a series of seminars devoted to One Health, a transdisciplinary science concept that aims to show how humans, animals, plants and the environment are interconnected.

This One Health seminar took place in the STAR Health Sciences Complex and was devoted to the topic of antimicrobial resistance, specifically trying to educate the audience about its dangers and solutions.

The speakers were Michael, an epidemiologist for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Sara Bazaco, an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland and the first to speak.

“It’s important to to distinguish between the four different types of resistances,” she said.

Resistance is the process through which microorganisms become immune to the drugs being used to kill them.

The four resistances are antimicrobial, antiviral, antimycotic and antiparasitic. These terms refer to microorganisms, viruses, fungi and parasites respectively. S. Bozaco made sure to distinguish between the terms so as to not confuse the audience with the incorrect terminology.

S. Bazaco continued on with a brief history of antimicrobial resistance. German physician E. de Freudenreich was the first person to open up the field of study.

In the early 1900s Paul Ehrlich, a German physician, was working on a cure for syphilis and inadvertently discovered arsphenamine, which is better known by its trademark name Salvarsan. It contained the toxic element arsenic.

Salvarsan was effective at treating syphilis, but many patients began suffering from arsenic poisoning.

Gerhard Domagk was a German pathologist for Bayer, best known for creating Prontosil, the first commercially available antibiotic in the 1930s.

In 1928, Scottish physician and microbiologist Alexander Fleming discovered a peculiar “mold juice,” as he called it, on his staphylococcus plates. This rare mold would become penicillin. It proved to be too hard to mass produce until Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain began their research on it. Fleming, Florey and Chain would share the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work.

Penicillin became popular very quickly and was put in everything from ointments, lozenges, toothpaste, gum and lipstick. It was considered a cure-all and according to an old advertisement it “cures gonorrhea in 4 hours.”

Antibiotics were becoming so popular that an entire process called acronizing was created. Similar to how pasteurization uses heat to kill pathogens, acronizing involved treating produce in a bath of antibiotics. It’s no longer being used after it was revealed that there were many health drawbacks to the baths, many of which are documented by McKenna.

“Bacteria are sneaky little buggers,” S. Bozaco said.

She said antibiotics are supposed to work by inhibiting the DNA synthesis and metabolism of bacteria. However, bacteria are capable of randomly mutating and changing the DNA sequencing in their bodies. Some bacteria have evolved natural resistances to antibiotics.

S. Bozaco also addressed why there is not as large a variety of antibiotics on the market as there theoretically could be.

“No new classes of antibiotics have been discovered since the 1980s,” S. Bozaco said. “The problem is time and money. It takes between 10-15 years and around $1 billion for the research to be done. Plus, it’s very hard for pharmaceuticals to recoup all the money they lose.”

Then M. Bozaco took the podium. A disclaimer was presented beforehand regarding M. Bozaco. Since he works for the FDA, “his opinions are not meant to reflect the views of the FDA nor the United States.”

One health seminar series 3/21/19 - Louis Mason Louis Mason /THE REVIEW
Above: Michael Bozaco explaining the process through which antimicrobial resistance occurs.

M. Bozaco started his part of the presentation with a discussion about E. coli, a bacteria that is known to cause severe food poisoning and gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and small intestine. What makes E. coli unusual is that at the point it was studied in 1968, it was already immune to all of the antibiotics that were on the market.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Israel Institute of Technology determined that, over the span of 11 days, E. coli is able to survive in an environment 1000 times the normal level for antibiotics to take effect.

“There’s a systemic issue here,” M. Bozaco said.

M. Bozaco concluded the seminar by giving a list of things that can help stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance, such as legislation and public awareness.

“We need to reduce infections, create an antibiotic stewardship, reduce the costs of healthcare, reduce the potential risks, create production initiatives and create new technologies,” he said.

Leah Aeschleman, a former student of Arsenault, volunteered to help with the event.

She liked the speakers and thought they conveyed their messages effectively and efficiently.

“I feel like One Health is a something that everybody should know and care about,” Aeschleman said. “The problem is that many people don’t seem interested in science and may not want to learn about it.”

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