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Antibiotic Overhaul
07 June 2015

Antibiotic Overhaul

Spectinomycin is an antibiotic, but not a very good one. Its weak antibacterial activity means it’s rarely ever used to treat patients with infections. But rather than consign it to the scrapheap, scientists have now given the drug a much-needed makeover. By computationally modelling the interaction of spectinomycin with its target – the bacterial protein synthesis machinery – the researchers were able to identify ways to chemically tinker with the drug’s structure, improving its bacteria-killing ability. In total, six new variants of the antibiotic were produced that were effective at killing a variety of common respiratory and sexually-transmitted bacteria. Indeed, while the old version of spectinomycin allowed this culture of human cells (stained green) to become overrun with Chlamydia trachomatis (orange), the revamped version of the drug almost entirely obliterated the bugs. The new improved suite of spectinomycins may thus serve as extra weapons in the continuing fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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