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Wednesday, 13 May, 1998, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
New antibiotics to beat the bugs
Some bacteria are drug resistant
Some bacteria cannot be held at bay by drugs
Scientists have developed two new compounds that may herald the beginning of a new class of antibiotic to combat increasingly drug-resistant bacteria. Our science correspondent David Whitehouse reports.

Over the past few years, the number of antibiotic-resistant bacterium has become a major concern for scientists and doctors. Some infections can only be controlled by one drug and there have been worrying reports that some bacteria cannot be treated at all.

Writing in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, researchers at Boston University and Scriptgen Pharmaceuticals say they have synthesised two compounds, myxopyronin A and B, that prevent drug-resistant bacteria from multiplying.

"This is a significant breakthrough from a chemistry point of view, but it's the first step in the process," said Michael Palfreyman of Scriptgen.

Professor James Panek of Boston University adds: "It is an exciting opportunity for the development of a new type of antibiotic - we now have the means to generate new drugs."

Scientists believe that new types of antibiotics will be needed in the future as more bacteria develop resistant strains.

However, they are keen to point out that the unnecessary use of antibiotics makes matters worse and hastens the arrival of resistant bacteria.

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