Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 17, 2006

Future Assaults on Bacteria Limited?

TIME blogger Christine Gorman reports on research first reported in Nature, to the effect that the deadly game of bacteria vs. antibiotics may have an ultimate winner: the germs.
Bad news in Nature (March 16, 2006). A team of biologists, biochemists and molecular biologists from the Max Planck Institute and the Hannover Medical School in Germany believe we may already possess nearly all of the most effective antibiotics possible against Salmonella, a type of bacteria that in one form causes food poisoning from undercooked chicken and eggs and the like and in another form is responsible for typhoid.

Basically, the investigators performed gene and protein analyses on various Salmonella strains after the bacteria were injected into mice. Then they figured out which metabolic pathways in the germs were most vulnerable to pharmaceutical attack.

What they found is that Salmonella’s most crucial metabolic pathways are already being exploited by current medications. (Over the years, the bug has evolved lots of redundant pathways so the greatest chance of success lies with the non-redundant ones.) The research team did find a couple of possible new targets but were surprised at how few there were.

The report may not signal the end of the age of antibiotics, but it is sobering. Maybe we can’t just invent our way out antibiotic-resistance crisis after all.


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