Turning bacteria against themselves

Bacteria often attack with toxins designed to hijack or even kill host cells. To avoid self-destruction, bacteria have ways of protecting themselves from their own toxins. Now, researchers have described one of these protective mechanisms, potentially paving the way for new classes of antibiotics that cause the bacteria’s toxins to turn on themselves.

Strep bacteria spreads infection via wasplike ‘stinger’

An electron micrograph of strep bacteria infecting muscle tissueMicrobiologists at the School of Medicine discovered that Strep A, the bacteria responsible for strep throat and other more serious disorders, has a wasplike “stinger” it uses to infect cells. Scientists had expected to find a random profusion of pumps for spraying infection-related compounds. The newly discovered, dedicated stinger could prove to be an easier target for new infection-preventing drugs.