Antibiotics are effective at killing bacteria (for now, at least), but they aren’t very picky, indiscriminately wiping out both good and bad bacteria. This can upset the fragile balance of your microbiome, which is increasingly being linked to general health and wellbeing. Now, researchers at Penn State have developed a new approach to make a drug that can single out a specific, opportunistic bacteria known as C. difficile.
Strange as it sounds, in some cases taking antibiotics can cause a bacterial infection. That’s because they effectively carpet-bomb your insides, killing the good bacteria that are vital to your health alongside the bad bugs. C. difficile is one of the latter group, and although it’s normally kept in check by good bacteria, once they’re out of the picture it’s adept at running amok and causing infection in the colon.
To prevent that, the Penn State team set out to develop new antibiotics that can single out C. difficile while leaving the good bugs alone.
“Ideally, a treatment for C. difficile would have no effect on other bacteria,” says David Stewart, co-principal investigator on the study. “These drugs are organism specific, meaning that they target only one kind of bacteria, kind of like smart antibiotics. They’re precise. And that’s especially important with C. difficile infections because this bacteria is uniquely, selectively advantaged to exploit ecological disturbances in the human gut.”