Research ArticleInfectious Disease

Classic reaction kinetics can explain complex patterns of antibiotic action

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Science Translational Medicine  13 May 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 287, pp. 287ra73
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa8760

Antibiotics, pure and simple

Antibiotics are powerful tools in fighting bacterial infection, but overuse and misuse are taking their tolls, leading to development of drug-resistant bacteria. Abel zur Wiesch et al. now report that simple chemical binding kinetics can explain three effects of antibiotics previously considered to have different causes: post-antibiotic growth suppression, density-dependent antibiotic effects, and persister cell formation. They report a theoretical model that links chemical reaction kinetics to bacterial population biology and validate this model both experimentally and with data from a tuberculosis clinical trial. This model may help optimize dosing and aid rational design of antibiotic treatment strategies.