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

Chronic and recurrent infections are typically caused by bacterial 'persisters' a small subpopulation of bacteria that manage to survive an antibiotic onslaught by essentially shutting down and metabolically going into hibernation.

As a result, the patient initially appears to be fully recovered, but over the course of weeks or months, the persisters return to life, often stronger and more aggressive than ever before, and the patient relapses.

Bacterial persistence is a major obstacle in the successful treatment of infectious diseases. It can stretch illnesses out over months, cause infections to spread to kidneys and other organs, and send treatment costs soaring. Given its adverse clinical and public health impact, bacterial persistence has become a growing area of research.

Yet to date, no treatment directly targets bacterial persisters.

Unlike antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whose ability to withstand drug treatments is based on genetic mutations fostered by exposure to drug treatment, persisters are genetically identical to the other members of their bacterial community. What separates them from the pack is their ability to switch into power-save mode.

Dr. Collins' research team has now discovered an inexpensive and effective way to rouse these bacterial sleepers, using a simple weapon sugar to stimulate them into an active state in which they are just as vulnerable to antibiotics as the others in their community.

Dr. Collins' approach consists of adding sugar to the antibiotic. The sugar acts as a stimulant, essentially turning on normal bacterial responses, such as dying when confronted by a killer antibiotic.

Using this strategy on E. coli bacteria, a common cause of urinary tract infections, the team was able to eliminate 99.9 per cent of the persisters within just two hours - compared to no effect without sugar. The approach was similarly effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus bact
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Contact: Sara Rimer
srimer@bu.edu
917-602-5513
Boston University
Source:Eurekalert

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