For a few patients suffering from a bacterial infection, antibiotics simply won’t cut it. Some bacteria have developed multidrug tolerance, a clever defense against the best weapons doctors have to fight them. But a new study published in the journal Nature has shown that by simply adding sugar to a drug regimen, even the most persistant bacteria can be killed off.
The crux of an assault on bacteria is that they, like organisms, must eat to survive. When antibiotics are introduced, the bacteria consume the drugs and eventually die off. But some more wily bacterial invaders have learned to shut down their metabolic processes when their breathern start to die off. During this time, they don’t eat or reproduce. It could be compared to bears hibernating through the winter. These so-called persisters can remain dormant for months until finally waking up to reproduce once again.
To counter the persisters, researchers sought to trick the dormant bacteria into eating even while the antibiotic was still present in the patients. Bacteria feed mostly on sucrose and most persistant bacteria can’t resist it. Instead of shutting down and waiting for the antibiotics to wear off, they continue to feed on the sugar and take in the deadly medicine in the process. In one experiment, 99.9% of the persistant bacteria were killed off when sugar was used in conjunction with the antibiotic treatment.
This is good news to for patients with persistent infections, like staph, urinary tract infections, strep throat, and even tuberculosis. Hopefully this simple sweet trick will be saving lives, and keep patients on the road to recovery.