Stressed bacteria protect their DNA by compacting it in clusters. More insight into the mechanisms involved may lead to more effective antibiotics.

PhD researcher Natalia Vtyurina studied the mechanisms of a DNA-binding protein from starved cells called Dps. In case of stress, caused by starving the bacteria or exposing them to antibiotics, the DNA double helix quickly curls around the Dps balls and locks down. This mechanism helps bacteria in protecting their genome. Once you understand a bacteria's defense mechanism, could you undermine it and make antibiotics more effective? Vtyurina agreed that, in principle, blocking Dps could make antibiotics stronger. But she stressed that a lot a fundamental science still needs to be done in this field. Additionally, studies and tests will be necessary to check the effectiveness and safety of any new drug.

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