AmebaGone Inc. fights bacterial infection without antibiotics or toxic chemicals
“One of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”
Antibiotics are used everywhere
- Human medicine
- Disease prevention and treatment in agricultural plants and animals
- Growth promotion in agricultural animals
If you’ve ever had a friend or loved one in the hospital or a long-term care facility, you know the fear of antibiotic resistant infections, particularly multiple antibiotic-resistant strains. Easily passed between individuals and difficult to treat, antibiotic resistance is a major health crisis. Bacterial pathogens were once thought of as well-controlled in modern society but are steadily gaining attention as antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains wreak havoc on human, animal, and plant health. In fact, because of the widespread use of antibiotics, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists antibiotic resistance as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”
New Legislation Bans Agricultural Antibiotics
The use of antibiotics in agriculture is a major contributor to the resistance seen in human and animal pathogens. By reducing the use of antibiotics in agriculture we can slow the spread of antibiotic resistance, providing effective alternatives and at worst, prolonging the efficacy of critical existing medicines used in human health. Policy makers have attended to this issue by passing legislation banning the use of antibiotics in organic orchards in 2014. While this is excellent news on the front of antibiotic resistance, it has put farmers in a very difficult position as they so far have not been able to find effective alternatives.
Fire Blight Destroys Orchards
Over 90% of the world’s antibiotic use in agriculture has gone to the control of Fire Blight. Fire Blight, a disease of pome fruits (such as pears and apples) is caused by the bacterial pathogen Erwinia amylovora. Fire Blight can decimate orchards; under optimal conditions, can destroy an entire orchard in a single season. Antibiotics have historically been used to prevent this disease, as there is no treatment for infected trees. The only cure is the removal of the affected limb, sometimes including the entire tree, a costly proposition for fruit operations, which spend years developing productive plants.
One alternative to antibiotics in the prevention of Fire Blight has been the use of copper-containing products. Unfortunately, copper is toxic to not only the pathogenic Erwinia bacteria, but also to terrestrial and aquatic life, including the trees on which it is applied. Moreover, like the development of antibiotic resistance over multiple exposures, Erwinia has also been shown to develop resistance to copper, making this treatment far less than ideal.
AmebaGone Combats Infection Using a Natural Means of Biocontrol
Just as probiotics in human nutrition have been shown to be beneficial in treating and preventing disease caused by pathogens, AmebaGone believes biocontrol is an effective solution for agricultural diseases.
To combat infectious disease without antibiotics or toxic chemicals, Amebagone employs Dictyostelium (“dicty”). These microscopic natural predators of bacteria actively seek out and then “eat” their prey – in this case bacterial pathogens. Most importantly, dicty can consume bacteria enmeshed in biofilms, a natural defense mechanism. While bacteria can develop defenses against antibiotics or toxic chemicals, their complete destruction by dicty eliminates concerns related to bacterial resistance for this method of treatment.
A Unique Predator
Groups of dicty work together to form spores when their bacterial food source is depleted. These spores are extremely resilient to environmental stresses, and permit development of easy-to-use products with long shelf-life. AmebaGone is also developing treatments for diseases in potatoes, tomatoes, and cash crops, making this technology both novel and unique in its application to many problems.
Dicty for a Sustainable Future
Dicty are effective, naturally occurring and non-toxic. They can be produced easily at costs amenable to market needs. Furthermore, as microbes, dicty are biodegradable and do not contribute to the waste stream. By pioneering this novel means of biocontrol AmebaGone will solve one of the 21st century’s most compelling problems -- that of growing antibiotic resistance alongside a dwindling supply of effective antimicrobial products.
By Steve Webster on in Midwest