As we hunt for new drugs to fight antibiotic-resistant diseases, an important chink in the armour of gram-positive bacteria has been discovered. These slimy-coated bugs include some of the biggest threats, such as tuberculosis and MRSA – pictured here (false coloured yellow) being attacked by a human white blood cell (purple). For 100 years we’ve assumed that all organisms, from microbes to humans, produce an essential iron-carrying substance called haem in the same way. But scientists detected a slight variation in the manufacturing process in gram-positive bacteria, requiring a protein called HemQ that’s not found in humans or other animals. Work has now begun on the development of a new class of drugs – they could be available in as little as two years – that block HemQ to kill or disable this type of bacteria but do not affect human haem production.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.