New Bacteria Destroying
Protein May Replace Antibiotics
By Evelyn Leopold

TEL AVIV (AFP) - Israeli researchers have discovered a "bacteria bashing" protein that could replace antibiotics and provide a badly needed weapon against drug-resistant infections.
The scientists at the Weizmann Institute near Tel Aviv said Monday that their discovery focused on a natural, detergent-like substance that attacks bacteria and dissolves their outer membranes.
"This defense consists of peptides, or protein fragments, that zap bacteria, literally spilling their guts," said Yechiel Shai, who led the team of researchers from Weizmann's biological chemistry department.
While the peptides exist in humans and other animals and even insects, Shai's team found a way to synthesize new antimicrobial peptides that are more stable and long-lasting.
"They hope that these peptides will become the basis for potent antibacterial drugs," the Weizmann Institute said in a statement.
Because the peptide materials kill bacteria instantly, it is considered unlikely that germ strains will be able to develop resistance against the medication.
Traditional antibiotics, which have become the main defense against disease over the past half-century, have in recent years run up against increasing numbers of bacteria strains that have developed a resistance to the drugs, threatening to make existing medicines obsolete.
The new peptide materials also have the advantage of killing only bacteria since they can be engineered to attack only the negatively charged membranes of bacteria and not the neutral coverings of regular cells.
The Weizman Institute said the new peptides had so far been shown to work in test tubes and would soon be tested on laboratory animals.