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Tweaked Antibiotics Tackle Drug-Resistant Bacteria

April 16, 1999|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Scientists said Thursday they may have found a way to outwit drug-resistant bacteria by slightly modifying antibiotics already on the market.

They said slight changes to the structure of vancomycin, which is considered the drug of last resort against the toughest bacteria, made the drug super-efficient. It killed normal bacteria even more quickly than usual and also finished off bugs that normally resist vancomycin.

Their method could offer a quick way to design antibiotics to overcome resistant bacteria, Daniel Kahne and colleagues at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., and a team at Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, N.J., wrote in a report in the journal Science.

Doctors and health officials are worried about the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 70% of infections that people get while in the hospital are now resistant to at least one antibiotic.

The Institute of Medicine reports that 90% of all strains of Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of infections, now resist the oldest antibiotic--penicillin.

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