Endangered species’ poop could help fight diabetic foot ulcers

The Times reports on a University of Sheffield article describing research that they have done on using the poop of endangered animals to kill certain bacterial species including superbugs which are resistant to antibiotics and which cause diabetic foot ulcers.

Guinea baboon. Image: Wikipedia.

Apparently, diabetics can suffer from untreatable foot ulcers. This is not uncommon as The Times reports that there are 7000 amputations every year in the UK for this condition.

The concept of using bacteria-killing viruses contained within the faeces of endangered animals is about overcoming drug resistant bacteria and killing them to save the feet of these poor people.

On reading the University of Sheffield article on their website, they state that researchers at the University have found that faeces from a range of endangered animals contain bacteriophages otherwise known as ‘phages’ which can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers. The researchers tell us that about 75,000 people every week are treated for these ulcers.

This is a reflection on the dire position in the UK regarding the number of people who suffer from diabetes due in large part to overfeeding and becoming obese (Type 2 diabetes). Britain is an obese country sadly. And I’m sure that most of these obese people are late-middle-aged or elderly who are eating too much and eating in the same way that they ate when they were younger despite the fact that they are burning far less calories due to a sedentary lifestyle.

The Sheffield scientists made this discovery after collecting faecal samples from a variety of endangered species such as Guinea baboons, lemurs and Visayan pigs at a local wildlife park namely Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster.

The hard-to-treat diabetic ulcers cost the NHS £1 million per year. Bacteriophages are the most common biological entities in nature. They have been found to be effective in fighting and destroying multi-drug-resistant bacteria. The remarkable fact is that when antibiotics failed to treat these ulcers, bacteriophages succeed.

The target apparently is to include these bacteriophages in dressings applied to untreatable diabetic foot ulcers to see whether they kill the damaging bacteria within the ulcers and save the foot.

Professor Stafford, Chair in Molecular Microbiology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Despite the smell, it turns out that the faecal matter of endangered species could hold the key to killing infectious bacteria that are otherwise resistant to antibiotics.

“So far, we have managed to find antibacterial viruses from Guinea baboon, giraffe, lemur, Visakan pigs, and our favourite, the cuddly binturongs and are working hard to develop these into viable treatments for patients whose next option is the loss of a toe, foot or leg. Importantly, the treatment could also help reduce costs of about £1 billion per year to the NHS.”

Dr Dave Partridge, Consultant Microbiologist, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Diabetic foot infections are often a challenge to treat and patients may need to have surgery to amputate part of the foot or leg, which can have a huge impact on their quality of life. If bacteriophage therapy proves successful, this could provide us with the ability to treat these infections in a different way, shortening courses of antibiotics and potentially avoiding the need for surgery.”

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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