Given current concern about the Ebola virus, it's surprising that the public isn't more alarmed about "superbugs." Superbugs are infectious bacteria that have mutated to adapt to antibiotics that were designed to kill them, making the drugs ineffective. And a major cause of the resistance problem is antibiotics administered to farm animals.
The compound aspergillomarasmine A, or AMA for short, restores the effectiveness of antibiotics against bacteria that make a particularly powerful resistance enzyme called NDM-1. NDM-1 resistance has emerged quite recently, and it is especially dangerous because it provides resistance not just to one antibiotic but to an entire class.
On June 25, 2014, the following scientific study made the cover of the prestigious journal Nature: "Aspergillomarasmine A overcomes metallo-β-lactamase antibiotic resistance." Doesn't exactly sound earth-shattering, does it? But the discovery of a fungal compound that restores the efficacy of one of our antibiotics of last resort is, in fact, huge news.
It's hardly any wonder that nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for U.S. livestock every year, while only 7.7 million pounds are used to treat sick people. And if superbugs can spread from India to America, they can also make the much shorter trip from industrial farms into our kitchens and hospitals.