YOUR HEALTH: Finding new antibiotics to save your life

BOULDER, Colorado – It's becoming a big health problem.

At least two million Americans will develop an antibiotic-resistant infection this year.

Drugs that once worked, like penicillin or amoxicillin, often don`t anymore.

These resistant infections are on the rise and researchers say it's something that should concern all of us.

Each year, 23,000 Americans die from an antibiotic-resistant infection.

"The days when you can give a patient an antibiotic and you were pretty darn sure it was going to work are pretty much gone," said Colorado University microbiologist Corrie Detweiler.

Detweiler's team wants to make antibiotics more effective.

They searched through 14,000 compounds and found three that show promise.

"We've been able to find some chemicals, some compounds, that inhibit bacteria from pumping out antibiotics," she said.

Many bacteria have developed efflux pumps that pump out antibiotics meant to kill them.

Detweiler's compounds block those pumps.

"If we can inhibit those efflux pumps, then we essentially re-sensitize that bacterium to a particular antibiotic."

Colorado University neuroscientist Pam Harvey's students research thousands of compounds looking for new antibiotics.

"In general, one in 10,000 compounds tested will become a drug in the pharmacy for you," said Harvey.

For Harvey, the research is important.   It's also personal.

"My dad got pneumonia over the summer. This is a guy who rides motorcycles and goes on trips with his friends. Two weeks later, he passed away from an antibiotic-resistant strain of pneumonia."

It's been a tough road, but she remains focused on her work.

"The problem is not going away. It`s getting worse."

PREVENTION:   The CDC has some tips on how you can protect yourself and your family, beginning with cleaning your hands and taking antibiotics correctly.   Also, vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent illnesses.   Be conscious when preparing food and when traveling abroad.

Last year, one of Harvey's students had a hit on one of the thousands of compounds under review.

It's now under study to test its efficacy on a resistant form of salmonella that causes typhoid fever.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at


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