Fresh understanding into antibiotics could pave way for new treatments

Researchers have discovered exactly how antibiotics like penicillin kill bacteria.

Scientists have uncovered the precise way a type of antibiotic works to attack bugs, which could potentially pave the way for new treatments.

Researchers have found the mechanism which allows antibiotics like penicillin to kill bacteria.

It was previously known that a certain type of antibiotic, which includes penicillin, worked by preventing growth of a cell wall.

But exactly how the cell was killed was previously unknown, despite antibiotics being a central part of healthcare around the globe.

Now an international team of researchers, led by experts at the University of Sheffield, discovered that these types of antibiotics kill the superbug MRSA by creating holes in the cell wall which enlarge as the cell grows, eventually killing the bacteria, according to an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists now plan to use this knowledge to create new drugs to tackle bacteria which is resistant to common antibiotics.

Professor Simon Foster, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Biosciences, said: “Penicillin and other antibiotics in its class have been a centrepiece of human healthcare for over 80 years and have saved over 200 million lives. However, their use is severely threatened by the global spread of antimicrobial resistance.

“Concentrating on the superbug MRSA, our research revealed that the antibiotics lead to the formation of small holes that span the cell wall that gradually enlarge as part of growth-associated processes, eventually killing the bacteria.

“We also identified some of the enzymes that are involved in making the holes.

“Our findings get to the heart of understanding how existing antibiotics work and give us new avenues for further treatment developments in the face of the global pandemic of antimicrobial resistance.”

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