The Infectious Disease “Perfect Storm”

The discovery of antibiotics was one of the most important medical advances of the 20th century. Therapeutic use of antibiotics removed many bacterial diseases from among the top ten most common causes of death in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. But today we are on the verge of returning to the pre-antibiotic era. Overuse of antibiotics has driven the evolution of bacterial strains that are resistant to the major antibiotics used in their very treatment. Moreover, bioterrorism brings new microbial health threats, and the increasingly high density and global movement of human populations places us all at greater risk of pandemics than ever before.

These threats are brought into sharp relief by the dearth of development of new antibiotics. Most pharmaceutical companies terminated their antibiotic discovery programs in the 1980s in favor of more lucrative drugs designed to treat chronic diseases.  A health crisis is imminent, and little is being done to avert it.

Compounding the crisis is the recognition that microorganisms contribute to a far wider array of diseases than previously thought. In addition to the well-known infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, pneumonia, and strep throat) that are responsible for much illness and loss of productivity, along with one quarter of deaths world-wide, recent studies have revealed that microorganisms are associated with diseases and disorders previously thought to be due to other factors. Examples of such diseases include stomach ulcers, colitis, atherosclerosis, schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome and even cancers. In short, microorganisms rule our world and define our health.  We would be wise to respect and harness them intelligently towards good ends.  Why? Because most microbes are good and can protect us ... from other microbes that are bad and a few that are downright ugly! AmebaGone is dedicated to finding ways to use microbes that are helpful to counter diseases in agriculture, industry and in animal and human health.  

Renewed Opportunities in Microbial Biology

In contrast to the languishing discovery of antibiotics by big pharma, other aspects of the microbial sciences are thriving. A renaissance in microbiology is dawning thanks to the marriage of traditional microbial and molecular biology techniques with recent, emerging advances in genomic sciences, computational biology, synthetic biology, chemistry, and biophysical engineering. As we have entered the 21st century, the genetic blueprints provided by the genome sequences of hundreds of microbial species offer an unparalleled opportunity to understand the behavior of microbes - including those such as Dicty - and to exploit their free-living phagocytic cells and products they secrete to solve important and growing global health problems.