PerspectiveMicrobiology

Giving antibiotics an assist

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Science  11 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6547, pp. 1153
DOI: 10.1126/science.abj3062

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Summary

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the silent pandemic. It has been steadily increasing over many years and threatens to halt the practice of modern medicine. By 2050, the annual number of worldwide deaths due to AMR will be ∼10 million, with an estimated economic impact of 100 trillion USD (1). The World Health Organization, United Nations, and governments worldwide agree that plans for surveillance, stewardship, and innovation must be implemented to avoid a future global catastrophe (2, 3). An integral part of prolonging the usefulness of antibiotics will be to identify new ways to combat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. On page 1169 of this issue, Shatalin et al. (4) provide hope by presenting an approach that makes bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. It hinges on crippling a universal bacterial defense mechanism whereby hydrogen sulfide (H2S) protects bacteria from the toxic effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Once disabled as such, bacteria become more susceptible to antibiotics.

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