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Bacterial byproduct offers route to avoiding antibiotic resistance

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As public health officials sound the alarm about the global spread of drug-resistant bacteria, researchers are working to develop more effective antibiotics to counter this dangerous trend. Now, results from a team including a Princeton University scientist offer a possible solution that uses the bacteria's own byproducts to destroy them.

In a recent paper in the journal Nature Biotechnology, first author Mark Brynildsen, a Princeton assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, reported that scientists can force bacteria to increase their production of a class of molecules called reactive oxygen species, which can either kill the bacteria outright or make them far more vulnerable to antibiotics. Bacteria normally produce reactive oxygen species during growth. Small amounts don't hurt them because of certain protective enzymes within the bacteria, but too much of the substances can lead to "oxidative stress." The researchers decided this weakness could be exploited.

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