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Surprising Science

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.


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