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Cellular chaos fights infection

Researchers have identified a molecule that disrupts RNA degradation in gram-positive bacteria such as the deadly MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and the microbe that causes meningitis, according to research published today in PLoS Pathogens.

Treatment with this molecule leads to the accumulation of unneeded proteins that clutters the cytoplasm and ultimately results in cell death, suggesting this unexploited pathway may be used to create powerful antibiotics.

"I do think it's a very interesting idea and a very interesting article," said June Scott, a microbiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

When developing antibiotics, researchers seek to disrupt the action of essential proteins. They have developed drugs that interrupt a cell's ability to transcribe RNA, such as rifampicin for tuberculosis treatment, or to translate RNAs into proteins, such as the broad-spectrum antibiotics tetracyclines and chloramphenicol. But to date, no drugs have targeted the RNA degradation process cells use to get rid of unneeded transcripts.

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