New study shows how antibiotics operate inside cells

Researchers have developed a technique to observe how antibiotics function inside living cells through the use of mass spectrometry.

Experts say that the technique may aid in the design of more effective treatments to fight infections such as tuberculosis, which is becoming more resistant to current frontline medicines, according to

The study, which was recently published in an early online edition of the journal Science, was lead by Dr. Kyu Rhee, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"The development of antibiotics has been stalled for several decades and many infectious microbes have become drug-resistant," Rhee said. "We must restock the antibiotic pipeline and our study findings provide a powerful new approach for doing just that."

Rhee and his colleagues, including researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, use mass spectrometry to weigh individual molecules and identify them. They can also determine the quantity of each type of gas, liquid and solid found inside an individual cell.

The technique has become highly sophisticated in recent years, allowing Rhee to determine the fates of small drug molecules as they operate against infections.

"The power of mass spectrometry is now evident, and we can't wait to use it to test all of the current cocktail of drugs used to treat TB to find ways to improve them," Rhee said. "Best of all will be the use of this tool to design and test the much-needed next generation of effective anti-TB agents.

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National Institutes of Health

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