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Disarming Deadly Microbes

September 30, 2015

Disarming, rather than killing harmful gut microbes outright could preserve beneficial gut flora.



Disarming a toxic microbe. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Clostridium difficile is a gut microbe that causes 15,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. It can take hold after a patient has gone through a round of antibiotics for another condition, according to Megan Garland of Stanford University School of Medicine.

MEGAN GARLAND (Stanford University School of Medicine):

Because antibiotics kill the bacteria, as well as other gut bacteria that can naturally keep the infection in check, it can lead to a lot of repeated infection.


Garland and her colleague, Kristina Oresic Bender, screened over 100,000 chemical compounds for their ability to bind to the toxins C. dificile produces, rendering it harmless. They write in Science Translational Medicine that a molecule called ebselen did the trick. If it proves successful in treating Clostridium, the work could pave the way for other drugs that disarm microbes, rather than kill them.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.