Nitric oxide for infection resistance – Antibiotic resistance redux

Fighting blood clots with the same substance you use to fight pollution in car exhaust fumes seems like a stretch. But both processes use that miracle substance-of-all-trades nitric oxide (NO) as the principal agent. NO is able to “regulate blood pressure, stop thrombosis – blood clotting in the vessels – and is a powerful antibacterial agent,” according to one of the UK chemical researchers who’s filed a patent application.

Finding ways to deliver the NO–in exactly the right quantitites, to exactly the right sites–is the trick. So far they are testing wound dressings that can protect against infection, even from such as the antibiotic-resistant bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA which is becoming more common in hospitals).

Antibiotic resistance is a growing issue, and some creative research is being done. For example, one approach is to try to destroy antibiotics in the lower intestines, where resistant bugs are known to keep growing right in the presence of antibiotics.

The fact is, our societal attitudes about medical treatment have set us off on many a crooked path. My pediatrician for years refused to give my children antibiotics without solid proof that they had pneumonia or some other provable-bacterial infection. Eventually he felt unable to help anymore with one child’s continuing respiratory issues and sent us to an allergist–who promptly started treating every incident with a different course of antibiotics. Despite my urgent questioning of whether the original doctor agreed with this approach or not, he would not speak against it. Said in fact that his own son took his child to a doctor who freely prescribed antibiotics.

When we believe that medicine can help us, we want to hurry up and get better with it. The problem is that somehow too many of us, patients and medical professionals alike, got convinced that antibiotics were miracle drugs that would cure anything. The pendulum is swinging back–we just have to navigate our way around the consequences we set in motion in the last several decades.