Beating the Superbugs: Avoiding an Antibiotic Apocalypse

4 Nov 2014

On 9 October, Prof Christopher Schofield FRS, Head of Organic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, gave a lecture organised by SCI's London Group (in association with the New York University London). The main focus of the lecture was the concern of a possible antibiotic apocalypse, a subject that has aroused much interest in recent years. The event took place in the University's historic Grade 1 listed building at 6 Bedford Square, London.

Prof Schofield discussed his research into the factors that affect the reactivity of antibiotics which incorporate a β-lactam ring, a four membered cyclic amide that is important in the effectiveness of the antibiotics but are susceptible to enzymatic cleavage. He also described the oxygen-detecting mechanisms in mammals and how these reactions may be similar to the reactions behind β-lactam antibodies.

Forty two delegates attended the lecture, quite of few of whom were students and professors from the University who were curious about biochemistry of the subject at hand. At the end of the lecture, some members of the audience spurred a discussion by asking questions about the methods behind the research and applications of the chemical knowledge to the medical field. Several university students and postdocs, were curious about the potential of entering a career in research and were glad to speak with other like-minded people who were interested in science and medicine, over the refreshments that were served after the lecture.

In an earlier lecture on 24 September at SCI in Belgrave Square, Prof Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of England, described the foreboding issues of antimicrobial resistance, in which the increased use of antibiotics across the UK has substantially amplified the risk of bacteria resisting prescribed drugs. Resistant bacteria contain β-lactamases, enzymes which break down the β-lactams in penicillin. One method of curbing such an issue is by introducing clavulanic acid, which acts as an inhibitor to the β-lactamases, protecting the antibiotics from being broken apart.

The London Group will continue to collaborate with the New York University in London. There are upcoming lectures to look forward to next year on human health and research. Dr Haydn Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Oxitec, has worked on research pertaining to controlling the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, a species which spreads Dengue fever across different countries. His lecture will be scheduled for February or March 2015. Dr Mike Waring, Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca, studies oncology and medicinal chemistry and is involved in the discovery and development of anti-cancer drugs. He will be speaking in April 2015.

Wenyu Deng
Biochemistry Major at NYU, London

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