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Bug Zapper: Novel drug kills resistant bacteria

A newly recognized compound can wipe out some of the most troublesome antibiotic-resistant bacteria, laboratory tests show. The drug works by sabotaging a microbe's production of fatty acids.

Scientists at Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, N.J., discovered the compound, which they call platensimycin.

The findings are preliminary but impressive, says Eric D. Brown, a microbiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. "This is a really promising story in a field that has had quite a bit of disappointment," he says.

Roughly 90,000 people in the United States acquire fatal infections in hospitals every year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Nearly three-fourths of those deaths can be traced to antibiotic-resistant microbes.

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