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Killing Mechanism

Revealing how antibiotic daptomycin – effective against severe bacterial infections – works

26 April 2020

Killing Mechanism

When an antibiotic-resistant superbug strikes, doctors must scramble to find alternative medicines. In the case of skin and soft-tissue infections resulting from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, for example, they can turn to a remaining weapon in their arsenal, daptomycin. Despite this antibiotic having been in clinical use for almost two decades, the drug’s precise mechanism of action was unclear. Now, researchers have shown that the drug (green) accumulates in the membrane of S. aureus (pictured) at the region where the new cell wall is built (the band across each newly divided cell). The drug binds two important building blocks for wall formation, preventing further construction, and eventually leading to cell death (resulting in the disordered staining pattern seen in the bottom row). By identifying these target molecules essential for daptomycin’s deadly effect, researchers may be able to design much-needed new medicines for the continuing war against antibiotic resistance.

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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