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turning the tide
Scientists Discover How to Tame Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Have the trumpets of Jericho become microscopic? Researchers in England recently found a new way to combat drug-resistant bugs: Knock down their walls. The BBC:

Scientists have found a new route to attack antibiotic-resistant bacteria by blocking the mechanism they use to build their exterior coating.

The bugs construct this defensive barrier in a complex process that depends on a key dual-protein molecule. […]

The protein complex LptDE is the “bricklayer” that pulls up the lipopolysaccharide “bricks” from inside the bacterium to insert them in the cell wall.

The antibiotic-resistant bacteria in question, known as “gram-negative,” cause infections such as meningitis and salmonella, as well as many hospital-transmitted “superbugs.” By mapping the protein using “intense X-rays”, the researchers have cleared the way for others to develop drugs that can inhibit this protein. Why is that so important?

[B]y attacking the functioning of the outer membrane new drugs would not need to get inside the bugs before starting their work.

And, in any case, resistant bugs seem to have evolved a mechanism to simply pump antibiotics back out when they do get through.

“If the bacteria do not have the outer membrane, they cannot withstand environmental changes. It also makes it easier for the human immune system to kill them,” said Prof [Changjiang] Dong [of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School].

The war against bacteria is no small problem, especially since the superbug MRSA was recently found in human food for the first time. But as discoveries like this remind us, there’s hope yet. The prophet Joshua would be proud.

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  • William Ockham

    If this works out it will be the biggest news of the year.

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