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Real Life Biological Supervillains

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If you’ve been reading Biowars, you know the dangers that bacterial villains pose to the body. In our world, when the Biowarriors protecting each of us can’t defeat a threat on their own, we turn to a treatment that transformed medicine and saved millions of lives: antibiotics.

Antibiotics are designed to strike at bacteria’s weaknesses. Some antibiotics attack and break down the cell walls of bacteria—since human cells don’t have cell walls, they escape unharmed. Other antibiotics attack the way bacteria make proteins or form DNA. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers: they attack and destroy good bacteria as well as bad, and they do nothing against viruses.

But bacteria are always mutating at random, and occasionally, one of these mutations will interfere with the way antibiotics work. That antibiotic resistance gives those bacteria an advantage and ensures they spread.

Even worse, bacteria can share genes with each other in a process called conjugation. Biowars features a lot of the incredible bacterial behavior that happens every moment—including bacteria physically joining and exchanging their DNA. The sinister ability of Raze to share his DNA with other bacteria, giving them dangerous powers, is actually just biological reality—although he’s a far greater threat than most of us will ever face.

And antibiotic-resistant bacteria have superpowers straight off the pages of Biowars. Armored shells that antibiotics can’t pierce. Enzymes that pump antibiotics out of bacterial cells. Chemicals that neutralize antibiotics. Some bacteria don’t just stop antibiotics, they eat them.

One solution is the development of new antibiotics, which bacteria haven’t yet learned how to defeat. But that only buys us time. Also, developing new antibiotics is extremely expensive, and discoveries have slowed down over the past couple of decades.

A world where antibiotics didn’t work would make basic surgery dangerous and reintroduce the threat of diseases, like tuberculosis, that have practically been wiped out of the developed world. It’s not time to despair just yet—scientists are developing new weapons against bacteria that sound like science fiction. Swiss scientists have developed nanoparticles called liposomes, which act as decoys for the toxins released by bacteria, neutralizing them until the body’s own Biowarriors can attack and eliminate the threat.

Even more incredible is scientific research coming out of Israel, where scientists inserted a virus into antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not only did the virus infect the bacteria, it stopped the bacteria from producing a protein that kept its cell structure intact. The bacteria then simply collapsed or fell prey to the body’s defenses. Put simply, the virus made superbugs sick.

These kinds of discoveries may not come in time to save Alexander Hawking in Biowars—but who knows?


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