‘Anti-evolution drug’ could stop superbugs from mutating


Over the past 90 years, scientists have discovered hundreds of antibiotics—microbe-killing drugs that have brought many pernicious diseases to heel. But every time researchers identify a new drug, bacteria inevitably evolve to resist it within a matter of years.

Houra Merrikh from the University of Washington thinks she has found a way of improving our odds. She and her team have identified a bacterial “evolvability factor”—a molecule these microbes need to rapidly evolve into drug-resistant strains. If she can find a way to block this molecule, she could pave the way for a new kind of drug: an anti-evolution drug that doesn’t kill microbes, but stops them from powering up into superbugs.

[H]er team showed that a bacterial protein called Mfd can increase the rate at which genes mutate—that is, change their DNA.

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The team repeated the experiment with other species of bacteria, and got results that were either similar or even more striking. For example, when it tested the bacterium behind tuberculosis, it found that Mfd-carrying strains became up to 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than the Mfd-less ones.


But wouldn’t bacteria eventually evolve resistance to the anti-Mfd drugs? “The chances are very low,” Merrikh says. “You’re turning off the mechanism that would do that in the first place.”

Read full, original post: A Bold New Strategy for Stopping the Rise of Superbugs

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