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RWS 2014: Cows gut could provide antibiotics of the future

It’S amazing what you can find in a cow’s gut – but the contents could provide the key to the human antibiotics of the future.

With urgent action required to tackle the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics, Dr Sharon Huws and her team at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) have characterised over 80 novel antimicrobials from microscopic bacteria in a cow’s rumen; with the potential to be used in treating bacterial infections in humans.

 

According to Dr Huws, a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol Lecturer in animal science at IBERS, the rumen houses a vast quantity of microbes which essentially degrade forages eaten by the animal and release nutrients for their growth.

 

Outlining details of the research at the Royal Welsh Show, she said: “In the rumen the microbes work together as a partnership — but often compete with each other.

 

“We have known for many years that some of the rumen microbes produce the antimicrobial bacteriocin, which aids their competitiveness in the rumen. Therefore it seemed likely that they also produced other antimicrobials which could potentially be used to treat human infections.

 

“The alarming increase in antibiotic resistance in disease causing bacteria, coupled with the decrease in drug discovery rate is now a serious medical challenge and it has been over 30 years since the last novel antibiotics were discovered.”

 

Dr Huws and her group have been working on this project for the last two years and are currently testing the efficiency of the isolated novel rumen antimicrobials.

 

She has also received funding of £50,000 over 4 years to co-operate on discovering antibiotics in rumen microbes ad additional help from the Welsh Government to continue the work as to how these antimicrobials work and their potential to be used in treating bacterial infections in humans.

 


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