There is no doubt that antibiotics are one of the greatest advances in medicine. The problem, however, with these bug-killers is that when they’re out to hunt, they cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria, thus killing both kinds. In the end, this can destroy the delicate balance of the microbiome – resulting in all sorts of health issues and contributing to the increasingly threatening problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Fortunately, scientists at the University of Konstanz and Duke University have a solution: antibiotics that can target specific strains of bacteria rather than killing everything in its sight. In one study, the researchers synthetically engineered a natural compound that wasn’t only efficient as an antibiotic but also highly selective in killing M. catarrhalis – a common pathogen that causes middle ear and sinus infections in children. In a second study, the researchers succeeded in developing highly selective agents against the malaria parasite, targeting the bug in the most vulnerable stage of its lifecycle.
These results might lead to a new basis for novel precision antibiotics, letting scientists pick off the bad bugs while leaving the good ones behind.