Unlocking a decade of data to fight antibiotic resistance


A ten-year problem, solved in minutes

Marcelo Sousa and Megan Mitchell, University of Colorado Boulder, USA


Most people who have access to a modern healthcare system would not consider a disease like bubonic plague to be a threat. Such bacterial infections are usually dealt with easily through modern antibiotics. Yet antibiotic resistance, where bacteria evolve the ability to defeat these drugs, is fast becoming a growing global problem. With new antibiotics thin on the ground, scientists like Marcelo Sousa and Megan Mitchell at the University of Colorado Boulder are looking at a different approach: targeting the resistance mechanism itself.

With modern medicine and modern antibiotics, we kind of take it for granted that we’re not going to die of a bacterial infection. But there’s 2.8m antibiotic resistant infections in the United States alone – it’s pretty scary. —Megan Mitchell

Blocking the resistance mechanism, controlled by enzymes, should allow existing antibiotics to continue to function. But understanding the structure of these enzymes has proven incredibly challenging with purely experimental methods – until the team came across AlphaFold. Here, Marcelo and Megan explain how it felt to suddenly unlock the potential of that data, and what this could mean for antibiotic resistance.

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