Ok. I don't recall if I've ever posted a new thread on ATS. There are a number of reasons - one, a lot of this stuff just doesn't seem new to me so
it doesn't dawn on me that you guys would be interested. Another is, the really good stuff I just am generally close-mouthed on.
So, I was following up the news on this to see where it was, and I realized I just hadn't seen a lot about it anywhere, and I don't believe I've
ever seen it HERE. Thus, my first original post (I think).
This isn't classified, and I never worked on it in any form, so it seems safe to toss out. What baffles me is why you haven't really seen much on it
in the MSM. I've been following it for a few years now.
This could go in so MANY topic headers. Military, Government, Medical Issues, you name it. But I picked S&T, maybe they'll move it. Who can say? They
say that fairy tales start off "Once upon a time", and Army stories start off "This ain't no s--t", and this starts off as an Army story. This
ain't no s--t....
The Army was interested in an antibiotic. Not just any antibiotic, but a NEW antibiotic, one that was safe in any reasonable dose so that anyone could
administer it without immediate fears of rotting out someone's kidneys or inner ears. It should work on just about anything - gram positive,
negative, mycobacteria, fungi, protozoans, whatever. And said target organisms should not be able to mount a defense against it. Ever.
You'd think that wouldn't be possible. However, it looks like it's about to happen. An UMass polymer science team headed by Dr Gregory Tew started
looking into the more generic methods of immune self-defense used by animals, and became interested in defensins - small proteins that attack classes
of bacteria without the complexity of phagocytes or the complement system. And they designed a class of artificial defensins that work on the same
principles but without using a protein to do the job. The new defensins seek out any cell membrane that doesn't incorporate cholesterol, and
perforate it, killing the cell.
All animal cells have membranes with cholesterol. The artificial defensin won't "fit" animal cell membranes - the cholesterol molecules prevent
them from locking on, and the neutral surface charge doesn't attract it. Pretty much anything else gets it. The new defensin doesn't have to be
absorbed by the target cell, so defense mechanisms like antibiotic "pumps" won't work. If the bacteria exposes a membrane, it gets perforated. Even
bacteria that wrap themselves in wax like the bacteria that causes tuberculosis are susceptible.
There are some variations in the defensin design that optimize for organisms that use membranes with ergosterol, like fungi. But in general, two or
three designs of artificial defensins given at the same time will kill pretty much any fungi, bacteria or protist, either given topically (spray or
cream) or by IV. You don't have to worry about doing gram stains to determine what sort of bacteria it is - it'll kill positive or negative. And the
bacteria don't develop resistance against it - they'd have to redesign their entire cell membrane configuration. Tew's group has been TRYING to
breed resistance to it. So far, hundreds of generations of bacteria exposed to it in serial sub-lethal doses die just as quickly as the first
Needless to say, the gubmint's been chunking cash at it left and right. The Army started off, but DARPA, DTRA, Navy et al are all hosing the bucks
in. It's passed phase I and II trials - it doesn't kill people or other critters at any reasonable dose - the LD50 for this stuff is basically going
to drown them - and with people the only side effect is momentarily numb lips when given at about 10x the necessary rate.
Phase III effectiveness tests in people are now underway. It works in cell cultures and in animals. I don't see it failing in people, although you
never know. Preliminary info is that it's working as predicted.
So, why the lack of news? I don't really know.
Next, what are the ramifications? If you have a new antibiotic that you can get one good sized dose of IV, and that's it for bacterial and fungal
infections, and they can't mount a defense against it, then we're down to viruses as the only cause of infection. Now, the Army wanted something a
medic could give in the field without needing labs or C&S studies. What does that do to society, though? At first glance, it seems like a godsend. But
will it cause a worse population explosion in third world countries?
Bang, instant TB cure. Bang, instant VD cure. No more cholera. No more plague. No more amoebic dysentery. No more malaria. VRSA, MRSA, MDR
tuberculosis, all one with yesterday's snows. You'd still have viruses to contend with, at least for a while - defensins can be tooled up for viral
infections too - but are there any drawbacks to curing people of pretty much any bacterial or fungal disease? Maybe it's just me wondering where the