Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Traitorous Traits

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA have proven a challenge to treat, and researchers are looking for new ways to get around, control, or drug these bugs. Scientific American's Katherine Harmon says the answer to the problem may be within the bugs themselves. Two papers recently published in Science show how a certain class of bacteria elude antibiotics using the same mechanisms that help them deal with environmental stress, Harmon says. The researchers say that exploiting those traits in the bugs could aid in making existing antibiotics more effective.

One of the recent studies, done by New York University researchers, shows that bacteria protect themselves against oxidative stress — which many antibiotics induce — by producing hydrogen sulfide and combining it with nitric acid to fight off drugs. The team found the three enzymes responsible for hydrogen sulfide production in S. aureus, E. coli, and other bacteria, Harmon says. The second paper, by researchers at McGill University, shows that bacteria deprived of nutrients more actively defend themselves against attack by drugs than well-fed bacteria, Harmon says. Both teams say their discoveries could be used to improve existing drugs, either by disrupting the enzymes that create hydrogen sulfide or by disrupting the response of nutrient-deprived bacteria to attack.

The Scan

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.

Team Presents Cattle Genotype-Tissue Expression Atlas

Using RNA sequences representing thousands of cattle samples, researchers looked at relationships between cattle genotype and tissue expression in Nature Genetics.

Researchers Map Recombination in Khoe-San Population

With whole-genome sequences for dozens of individuals from the Nama population, researchers saw in Genome Biology fine-scale recombination patterns that clustered outside of other populations.

Myotonic Dystrophy Repeat Detected in Family Genome Sequencing Analysis

While sequencing individuals from a multi-generation family, researchers identified a myotonic dystrophy type 2-related short tandem repeat in the European Journal of Human Genetics.