Canadian Antibiotics

Apr 25, 2017

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

"Dustin Byfuglien finishes his lap around MTS center. He kisses Lord Stanley's Cup and hands it off to Patrick Laine." That is the call I want to hear Dennis Beyak of Winnipegosis make. But I guess it won't be this year. The Jets didn't make the post season, but 5 Canadian teams did. Although that number of 5 is dropping, it is still so much better than the complete absence of Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs last year. There are only 2 problems this year's NHL playoffs: the Leafs are in the post season, and the playoffs reinforce a Canadian stereotype. You know, the stereotype that Canadians are only good at hockey, saying sorry, maple syrup and ground breaking research into antibiotic resistance.

I don't know if Dr. Nathalie Tufenkji plays hockey, but if she doesn't, someone should teach her. She certainly should be on a poster as a future Canadian Icon. Dr. Tufenkji and her team from McGill University in Montreal presented some sweet findings to the American Chemical Society. They produced an extract of maple syrup that may be useful in fighting infections. Dr. Tufenkji's team actually started with store bought maple syrup. They then extracted phenolic compounds from the water and sugar in the maple syrup.

The maple syrup extract didn't kill any disease causing bacteria on its own. However, when combined with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin or carbenicillin, the phenolic compounds from the maple syrup caused an interesting synergy. The maple syrup extract allowed the team to get the same bacterial killing using 90 percent less antibiotic. The McGill team tried the maple syrup extract and antibiotic combinations on E. coli which can cause stomach problems, Proteus mirabilis with can cause bladder infections and Pseudomonas aeruginosa which can cause infections that patients pick up in hospitals.

Dr. Tufenkji and her colleagues eventually infected fruit flies and moth larvae with bacteria and then treated them with antibiotics plus maple syrup extract and without maple syrup extract. The fruit flies and moth larvae that got the antibiotics plus maple syrup extract lived longer than those that got just antibiotics. Dr. Tufenkji and her team think the maple syrup extract changes the permeability of the bacteria, so it is easier for the antibiotic to get into the bacteria. They also think the maple syrup extract stops the pumps in the bacteria that would normally remove the toxic antibiotic. This means not only can the antibiotic get into the bacteria easier, once it is inside, the bacteria can't get rid of it. This could explain why the researchers needed 90 percent less antibiotic when they used the maple syrup extract.

Meanwhile at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Dr. Grant Pierce and Dr. Pavel Dibrov have developed a new compound they called PEG-2S. PEG-2S cuts off the energy supply to bacteria. They published their work in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

One of the interesting things about PEG-2S, is it attacks a different target than traditional antibiotics. The antibiotics we use now attack three main areas in the bacteria. They attack the cell wall, how the bacteria makes proteins and how the bacteria replicates its DNA. Dr. Pierce and Dr. Dibrov think PEG-2S stops the bacteria from being able to change food into energy. The researchers found that the energy making machinery in Chlamydia trachomatis (a bacteria that can cause sexually transmitted disease) is different from the energy making machinery in human cells. When PEG-2S stops Chlamydia trachomatis from being able to produce energy that hurts or kills the bacteria but, it doesn't affect how the human cells around it produce their energy. That means potential side effects of PEG-2S are less likely.

The research in Montreal and Winnipeg on killing bacteria is fascinating. However, neither of these is likely to produce a medication I can stock in the pharmacy for at least ten years. But they do go to show that the folks of the True North are good with test tubes as well as hockey pucks. Next winter remind your daughters and sons to stuff a science textbook into their hockey bag for those long road trips. To round out the 2017 season, congratulations to the Portage Terriers for winning the MJHL. I'm sure the Dauphin Kings will knock them off their seemingly perpetual perch next year. For the NHL awards, Laine is better than Matthews no matter how the Calder Cup voting goes. And if you are a life long Leafs fan, I'm sorry. That's it. I'm just sorry.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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No more ‘superbugs'? Maple syrup extract enhances antibiotic action -

Canadian researchers find new compound to potentially fight antibiotic-resistant infections -

Development of a novel rationally designed antibiotic to inhibit a nontraditional bacterial target -

No more ‘superbugs'? Maple syrup extract enhances antibiotic action -


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