Robots could save us from new ‘Dark Ages’
SCIENTISTS SAY TECHNOLOGY COULD HELP HUMANS BEAT LOOMING ANTIBIOTICS CRISIS
SCIENTISTS in Manchester believe robots could tackle a looming antibiotics crisis which could take humanity back to the ‘Dark Ages.’
Antibiotics have helped rid the world of lethal diseases, but their widespread use means some bacteria are now developing a resistance, turning into untreatable ‘superbugs.’
But experts at Manchester University say automated technology could help create drugs much faster than bacteria can adapt to them.
Only a handful of new antibiotics are currently in development because creating medicines is expensive, time-consuming and often meets with failure.
But a leading drugs expert says robotic testing could slash the time and money normally needed for this type of research – which involves large volumes of repetitive tasks.
The vast majority (up to 90 per cent) of all antibiotics currently in use are derived from a type of soildwelling bacteria called ‘actinomycetes.’
Until recently it was feared that the number of possible drugs that could be extracted from this strain had been exhausted.
Now scientists in the Manchester Synthetic Biology Research Centre, (SYNBIOCHEM) believe they have a way to help solve the problem by using robots to make and test thousands of different antibiotics.
Professor Eriko Takano, the lead principal investigator on the project, said: “It’s basically a numbers game, and if we use robots we can screen for lots of numbers, more than one person can do.
“Resistance appears very quickly in these pathogens. We need to be ahead of this race. The bugs are overtaking us at the moment.”
Prof Takano, a professor of synthetic biology, added: “If it is as bad as they predict, we may not be able to go in for a routine operation as safely as thought, as there will be these antibiotic resistant bugs. You can’t even get a paper cut without a possible risk. That’s like going back to the Middle Ages or a time before penicillin was discovered.”
Manchester University is unique in the UK for using robotics in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Professor Eriko Takano