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How Penicillin Acts Like TNT for Bacteria

Updated: May 28, 2019

Scientists have discovered a protein that prevents bacteria from exploding, which could make it a good target for future antibiotics.

Although penicillin was discovered nearly a century ago, scientists are still learning how the drug makes bacterial cells pop like overfilled balloons.

Now, in a study of the disease-causing bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae,researchers have discovered a suite of molecules involved in penicillin-induced bursting. “We’re finally getting mechanistic clues as to how penicillin and related drugs cause bacterial cells to explode,” says Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Thomas Bernhardt, a microbiologist at Harvard Medical School (HMS). He and his colleagues report the work April 9, 2019, in the journal eLife.

Read the full press release at HHMI.

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