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HEALTH

A new antibiotic that could fight drug-resistant bacteria has been found in Italy

Scientists have discovered a new antibiotic that is highly effective against bacteria resistant to known antimicrobials, which was found in a soil sample taken in Italy.

A new antibiotic that could fight drug-resistant bacteria has been found in Italy
File photo of laboratory workers: pressmaster/Depositphotos

Named “pseudouridimycin,” or PUM, the new antibiotic is produced by a microbe found in the soil.

It has killed a wide range of bacteria in laboratory tests and cured mice infected with scarlet fever. Details of the discovery were published on Thursday in the US scientific journal Cell.

Pseudouridimycin neutralizes an enzyme called polymerase that is essential to virtually all functions of every organism.

However, it acts differently than rifampicin, a class of antibiotics used to target the same enzyme. Its mechanism means the new antibiotic is ten times less likely to trigger drug resistance than those currently on the market.

PUM killed 20 species of bacteria in experiments, proving especially effective against streptococci and staphylococci, several of which are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Clinical trials with PUM could begin within three years and the new antibiotic could be released on the market in the next ten years, researchers at New Jersey's Rutgers-New Brunswick University and the Italian biotechnology company Naicons said.

The discovery showed again that bacteria found in the soil are the best source of new antibiotics, the scientists said.

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HEALTH

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020

Coronavirus cut average life expectancy in Italy by 1.2 years in 2020, and by more than four years in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, official statistics showed on Monday.

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020
A cemetery in Bergamo, one of the parts of Italy which has suffered the highest death toll during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Life expectancy at birth last year stood at 82 years, compared to 83.2 years in 2019, the Istat national statistics office said in a new release.

“In 2020, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting sharp increase in mortality abruptly interrupted the growth in life expectancy at birth that had characterised the trend until 2019,” it said in a statement.

For many years Italy has boasted one of the longest life expectancies in Europe. But with the spread of the coronavirus, its ageing population was especially vulnerable to falling sick.

Italy has recorded close to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in total, which have mainly been among the elderly.

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The drop in life expectancy was even steeper in some regions such as the northern provinces of Bergamo and Cremona, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.

Men lost on average 4.3 and 4.5 years while women lost 3.2 years and 2.9 years in these areas.

More than 129,500 people with coronavirus have died in Italy, the majority in the northern regions where 36 percent of the population lives.

According to Istat, the pandemic has wiped out many of the gains made year-on-year since 2010, when Italy’s average life expectancy was 81.7.

Italy was the first European country to face a major outbreak of Covid-19 and for a time the region of Lombardy, the nation’s economic heart, became the epicentre of the global pandemic.

Quality of life has also been impacted in Italy, particulary due to the economic repercussions of the crisis.

The government has since rolled out a vaccination programme that, as of Monday evening, had almost 72 percent of the population over 12 fully immunised.

Italy has set a target of vaccinating at least 80 percent of the population by the end of September.

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