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Sugar boosters could lead to cheap, effective treatments for chronic bacterial infections
Date:5/11/2011

(Boston) James Collins, a pioneering researcher in the new field of systems biology and a MacArthur Genius, says: "You know the old saying: 'a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down?' This is more like 'a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine work.'

Dr. Collins, a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, is talking about his recent development of an effective, low-cost and surprising way to treat chronic bacterial infections, such as staph, strep, tuberculosis, and infections of the urinary tract.

He and his team of scientists discovered that a simple compound sugar dramatically boosts the effectiveness of first-line antibiotics. Their findings appear in the May 12 issue of Nature (online May 11th).

The Boston University researchers discovered that a simple compound sugar dramatically boosts the effectiveness of first-line antibiotics. Their findings appear in the May 12 issue of Nature.

Dr. Collins, 45, who is also a founder of the new field of synthetic biology, has a personal interest in this research. His 71 year old mother, Eileen Collins, was hospitalized several times in recent years with recurrent bouts of a serious staph infection. Doctors treated her with multiple intravenous antibiotics and still the infection could not be killed. It was his mother's suffering that added urgency to Dr. Collins' research. (While Mrs. Collins is not symptomatic at the moment, she is still on antibiotics).

In addition, his own undergraduate track career at the College of the Holy Cross years ago was cut short by a persistent staph infection. Despite repeated doses of erythromycin, the infection continued to sap his energy and he was unable to compete in his event the mile -- during his junior and senior years.


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Contact: Sara Rimer
srimer@bu.edu
917-602-5513
Boston University
Source:Eurekalert

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