[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Imagine antibiotics that would never lose their punch. New research focuses on drugs that bacteria simply can’t resist. Most antibiotics work by killing pathogens. The problem is, it’s hard to kill every single microbe. The rare ones that survive reproduce, often creating a population that’s antibiotic resistant.
But what if you could make a drug that renders bugs harmless, without actually killing them? In that scenario, bacteria might not evolve resistance. And that’s what researchers showed in the March 9th issue of Nature Chemical Biology.
The key is communication. In well-trained armies, commanders bark orders, and soldiers signal each other to coordinate their positions. The same is true for a lot of infectious bacteria, which hold off mounting a full assault—complete with toxins—until there are enough of them around.
The scientists designed three different compounds that jammed cell-to-cell signaling in bacteria that cause food poisoning and cholera. And they found that the bugs remained sensitive to drugs, even after 26 generations. They still need to confirm that the bugs that are silenced are in fact less deadly. If so, the new antibiotics would leave bacteria alive, but they’d basically be POWs. With no way to escape.