Sugar enlisted to fight bacteria

May 12, 2011 at 1:44 PM
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BOSTON, May 12 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers battling bacteria that resist medications by becoming zombie-like then reawakening to cause new infections say they have a new weapon -- sugar.

Boston University bioengineer James Collins and his colleagues have discovered how to make these "persisters," thought to underlie many stubborn infections, susceptible to drugs by the deliciously simple act of adding sugar, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

"Could we wake these guys up?" Collins asked. "Could we ... get them up off the ground so we can punch them and knock them out?"

In laboratory tests, the researchers said, the sugar energized the bacteria sufficiently so that a particular type of antibiotic could make its way into the cells and destroy them.

Persisters are believed to be involved in hard-to-treat infections such as tuberculosis and biofilm infections that grow on implanted medical devices.

"Persisters are very difficult to eradicate; they evolved to survive," said Kim Lewis, director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University. "Looking for ways to try to beat them is very important."

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