Health experts fear that surgical operations such as organ transplants and even routine medical procedures could become deadly within the next two decades due to risks of infection caused by the rise of drug-resistant bacteria.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization warned that common infections and minor injuries that may once again become deadly as antibiotics no longer work against resistant bacteria called "superbugs". The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that disastrous consequences are possible if superbugs, which are attributed to about 23,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, continue to evade treatment.

Findings of a group of scientists from U.K and China, however, raise hope that superbugs may no longer pose serious threats in the future. For their study "Structural basis for outer membrane lipopolysaccharide insertion" which was published in the journal Nature on June 18, Changjiang Dong, from the Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, and colleagues studied gram negative bacteria, which include E.coli, Salmonella and many other superbugs found in hospitals, which increasingly become resistant to antibiotics.

The bacteria particularly have thick outer wall that makes them impenetrable and difficult to kill. The researchers, however, found a way to disable this defense system.

"We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface," Changjiang Dong said. "Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked."

The researchers are optimistic that their findings could lead to the development of drugs that could effectively kill superbugs. Study researcher Haohao Dong, also from the UEA Norwich Medical School said that that drugs can target the barrier that protects the bacteria and not the bacteria itself and this may prevent the bacteria from developing resistance against drugs.

"Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future," Haohao Dong said.

The findings of the study are crucial because drug-resistance bacteria have become a health problem worldwide. The superbug MRSA is responsible for about 19,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, which exceeds the number of deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.

Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, that affect over a million people worldwide also become increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment. At least 10 countries around the globe including Britain, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia Canada, France, Australia, Austria and Sweden have gonorrhea cases that are no longer treatable.

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Tags: Superbug MRSA