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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Pill 'could kill off superbugs'
Antibiotic resistance is increasing
A pill that destroys antibiotics could be the latest weapon against superbugs.

Scientists in Finland have developed a drug which they say kills antibiotics when they reach the lower gut.

Antibiotics cannot be absorbed when they reach this part of the stomach. As a result, they can sometimes cause drug-resistant bacteria to develop.

According to a report in New Scientist magazine, the pill worked when it was recently tested on six volunteers by manufacturers Ipsat Therapies.

When people swallow an antibiotic, most of it is absorbed into the blood through the upper gut.

Our goal at Ipsat is to...remove the widespread problems associated with resistance and serious infections
Marion Carson,
Ipsat Therapies
However. some of it reaches the lower gut where it cannot be absorbed.

There it kills countless gut bacteria, upsetting the natural balance and often causing upset stomachs.

Bacteria thrive

However, as long as the antibiotic lingers in the lower gut it is allowing resistant bacteria to thrive at the expense of other bugs.

This can cause weak or elderly patients, for example, to suffer from persistent infections, which have to be treated by other antibiotics, leading to yet more resistance.

However, scientists at Ipsat Therapies believe they may have found a way around this problem.

They have developed a pill which is designed to be taken with an antibiotic.

The pill does not break down until it reaches the lower gut. There, it mops up any antibiotics.

Results from early trials have been promising. Further tests are now being planned.

The company believes its drug could tackle the rise in superbugs in the West.

"Our goal at Ipsat is to extend the utility of current antibiotics and remove the widespread problems associated with resistance and serious infections, often fatal in growing elderly population, and in hospitals," said Marion Carson, the company's managing director.

Brian Spatt, who studies antibiotic resistance at Imperial College London, said the pill could help to reduce antibiotic-related diarrhoea, particularly in the elderly.

He said the pill was unlikely to have a huge impact on antibiotic-resistant bacteria in general.

A recent study carried out by researchers in Spain found that nearly 10% of people now have beta lactam-resistant gut bacteria. This compares with just 0.3% in 1991.

Antibiotics crisis 'looming'
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13 Dec 02  |  Health

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