Via the South China Morning Post: Gateway drug: Chinese research may open new front in war on superbugs. Excerpt:
A breakthrough in biophysics could change the fight against superbugs, according to a new study by Chinese researchers.
For the first time scientists have mapped the internal structure of a secret passageway that could open up a new front in the war against deadly bacteria and render their drug resistance useless.
Scientists have known about a "back door" into the defences of nearly all bacteria for some years. The portal opened from time to time, creating a tiny passage for antibiotics to penetrate the bacteria's membrane without triggering drug resistance.
Earlier this year, a joint study by researchers from the United States and Australia reported that a new antibiotic might have gone through the portal and killed one variety of drug-resistant bacteria.
But the attempts were hit-and-miss because the researchers did not have a clear understanding of the portal's structure and the key to opening it.
The recent discovery, made by a research team led by Chinese Academy of Sciences professor Liu Zhenfeng, could significantly accelerate the development of new antibiotics that could go through the portal.
"Scientists can quickly find or design antibiotics if they know the exact structure of the targeted area. It's like travelling somewhere - it's much easier if you have a map of the place," said Liu, lead author of a paper published this month in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Though this is fundamental research, which is not directly linked to antibiotics development, the new knowledge may pave the way for a new strategy in our fight against superbugs."