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Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Feb;165(4):845-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01643.x.

Enhancing the utility of existing antibiotics by targeting bacterial behaviour?

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Molecular Microbiology Research Laboratory, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, King's College London, London, UK.


The discovery of novel classes of antibiotics has slowed dramatically. This has occurred during a time when the appearance of resistant strains of bacteria has shown a substantial increase. Concern is therefore mounting over our ability to continue to treat infections in an effective manner using the antibiotics that are currently available. While ongoing efforts to discover new antibiotics are important, these must be coupled with strategies that aim to maintain as far as possible the spectrum of activity of existing antibiotics. In many instances, the resistance to antibiotics exhibited by bacteria in chronic infections is mediated not by direct resistance mechanisms, but by the adoption of modes of growth that confer reduced susceptibility. These include the formation of biofilms and the occurrence of subpopulations of 'persister' cells. As our understanding of these processes has increased, a number of new potential drug targets have been revealed. Here, advances in our ability to disrupt these systems that confer reduced susceptibility, and in turn increase the efficacy of antibiotic therapy, are discussed.

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