By learning how antibiotics function on a molecular level, scientists aim to understand how some bacteria strains resist treatment. Biochemists at the New York University School of Medicine believe bacteria use the same technique that helps them survive other stresses, such as a lack of food: “They produce hydrogen sulfide, which, in combination with nitric oxide (a typical by-product of bacterial metabolism) seems to protect bacteria from antibiotic assaults.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Researchers found that bacteria produce a stringent response when they are deprived of nutrients, making them better able to resist antibiotics. “To test whether stringent response could also be protecting the bacteria from antibiotics, the researchers created a mutant strain that lacked such an alarm. Indeed, antibiotics were much more effective against those bacteria strains that could not turn on their stringent response.” Scientists are now looking for ways to disrupt this stringent response.