30 Sep 2017

Learning to live with bad bugs

From This Way Up, 12:45 pm on 30 September 2017

The fight against antibiotic resistance is a fight against evolution, and sadly it seems to be a war that we are never going to win.

Our approach so far has been to kill the bad bugs; waging a war on pathogens with anti-microbials, like vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics as our major weapons.

So could there be a better way for managing pathogens, a way in which we can tolerate them better, and actually promote and induce tolerance in those that have been affected? 

Biologist Janelle Ayres of The Salk Institue in California is working on this alternative approach. While she was a graduate student at Stanford University about 10 years ago she infected 10,000 fruit flies with listeria, and then compared the ones that died to the ones that stayed alive. 

She discovered specific genetic differences that acted like a damage-control mechanism and prevented some flies from succumbing to the infection.

Janelle Ayres of The Salk Institute

Janelle Ayres of The Salk Institute Photo: (Supplied)