"Although the path from our experiments to a practical therapeutic tool may be a very long and costly one, this method could restore the full usefulness of today's front-line antibiotics, thus bypassing the tremendous expense of developing new antibiotics," said Nobel laureate Sidney Altman, who announced the finding in the Aug. 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Altman, along with senior research scientist Cecilia Guerrier-Takada and postdoctoral fellow Reza Salavati, used laboratory techniques based on research leading up to his 1989 Nobel prize-winning discovery that RNA is not just a passive carrier of genetic code, but also can be an enzyme that actively engages in chemical reactions. The discovery triggered a new branch of genetic engineering aimed at treating lethal viruses and drug-resistant bacteria, as well as repairing genetic defects.
In the past 15 years, physicians have noted a significant increase in drug-resistant bacteria, often requiring the use of more expensive antibiotics accompanied by more negative side-effects, according to Robert S. Baltimore, professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) at the Yale School of Medicine.
For example, haemophilus influenzae, which causes meningitis, used to be
treated routinely with ampicillin, but about 20 percent of cases today
Contact: Cynthia L. Atwood