News of the WeekMicrobiology

Promising Antibiotic Candidate Identified

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Science  17 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5448, pp. 2245-2247
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5448.2245

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Pathogenic microbes are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, including vancomycin, a longtime antibiotic of last resort. Now researchers have come up with a possible vancomycin replacement--one that might lead to a whole new generation of antibiotics. On page 2361, a Dutch-German team shows that a small proteinlike molecule called nisin kills bacteria by latching onto a cell membrane molecule known as Lipid II and opening up holes in the membrane. Because Lipid II is the same target used by vancomycin, the result suggests that nisin, or derivatives of it, could one day replace vancomycin as a broad-range antibiotic.