Sugar Helping Target Resistant Bugs

Recurrent throat infections ended his college track career but now James Collins is a bioengineer researching bacteria and antibiotics. He's found a surprising ally in sugar.

What's the Latest Development?


Recurring strep throat put paid to his college track career, but 25 years later, James Collins is a bioengineer researching what may be a powerful aid in tackling 'persisters' (bacteria that evade medications): sugar. Collins and his colleagues have discovered that adding sugar makes these bacteria, which are thought to underlie many stubborn infections, susceptible to drugs.

What's the Big Idea?

The goal of such research is to identify weak spots that might be targets for new kinds of drugs or combination therapies that boost the power of existing antibiotics. Persisters survive antibiotic treatment by shutting down, so it occurred to the researchers to try waking them up in order to finish them off. There’s been a real dearth of new antibiotic development in the past 40 years.

Related Articles

Found: second draft of Galileo's argument for a heliocentric model

At least he wasn't burned at the stake, right?

The original letter in which Galileo argued against the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church has been rediscovered in London. Image credit: The Royal Society
Surprising Science
  • The letter suggests Galileo censored himself a bit in order to fly more under the radar. It didn't work, though.
  • The Royal Society Journal will publish the variants of the letters shortly, and scholars will begin to analyze the results.
  • The letter was in obscurity for hundreds of years in Royal Society Library in London.
Keep reading Show less

Why the world needs death to prosper

Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
  • After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
  • Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
Keep reading Show less

Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

E. Fleischer
Surprising Science
  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Keep reading Show less