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Dormant Bugs Dodge Antibiotics

A new way to attack harmful bacteria by affecting normal growth has been discovered by scientists from Aberystwyth. The research is presented today, Wednesday 10 September 2003, by Dr Adriana Ravagnani at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at UMIST in Manchester.

Under hostile conditions some bacteria have the ability to go into and out of a dormant stage, which effectively defends them from attack by antibiotic medicines by strengthening their cell surface. This makes diseases caused by these types of bacteria, such as tuberculosis, particularly difficult to wipe out. Earlier, the researchers had studied this group of bacteria and discovered a new family of proteins that are needed if the bacteria are to survive during the dormant period.

This research has now been extended to another group of bacteria, which contain proteins that appear to be related to the ones previously discovered. This bacterial group also includes important human pathogens, such as the causative agents of anthrax, tetanus and botulism, as well as bacteria responsible for food spoilage. This has opened up new potential avenues for the effective treatment of dangerous bacterial infections.

"Understanding of factors controlling the growth of these organisms may help the treatment and diagnosis of infections, as well as detection of food contamination" says Dr Ravagnani of the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

This discovery could also be used by scientists to identify completely new organisms in our environment which have never been cultured before, making them a potential source of valuable new biological molecules for use in industrial processes and in pharmaceuticals.

Society for General Microbiology. August 27, 2003.

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