Superbugs, or those which are resistant to antibiotics, have been all over the news in recent months.
While scientists have grappled with how to contain them, they think they may have found the answer in cannibal bacteria.
Researchers have discovered that a bacteria known as Bdellovibrio can be potentially deadly to other bacteria, eating and destroying it before it has a chance to fully infect an entire body.
For this particular bacteria, the bacteria it is feeding on is used as a nutrient source. It therefore changes the shape of the deadly bug and makes it so that it is unable to continue with its infectious path.
Tests at the University of Nottingham and Imperial College London had the bacteria go to town on Shigella, the bacteria that causes food poisoning. The Shigella deteriorated 4,000 times within the petri dish.
It was also found that when fish larvae was infected with a superbug, the Bdellovibrio helped increase the survival rate of the eggs by more than 25%.
The bacteria is found almost everywhere and is able to find the bacteria needed to be culled and devastate it fairly easily, though it isn’t fully understood.
At the moment, the treatment has no risk of side effects because artificial drugs and chemicals are not being used. Instead, the body is only being injected with a natural substance that would cull the superbug in nature anyway.
Researchers describe it as a “living antibiotic,” meaning that resistance may not become a factor to the bacteria. This is because as the superbugs evolve, the Bdellovibrio may be able to continue to evolve to always be just a little bit faster and just a little bit better than its prey.
Scientists are toying with the idea of using the living bacteria in wounds to help cull infection that cannot be treated in any other way. This way, the bacteria can be quickly and easily injected right into the site.
At the moment, however, the bacteria will not be used in humans or animals until many safety checks have been performed. While it is thought no side effects will be present, scientists and researchers are not yet sure.