New class of precision antimicrobials redefines role of Clostridium difficile S-layer in virulence and viability

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Science Translational Medicine  06 Sep 2017:
Vol. 9, Issue 406, eaah6813
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah6813

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Forcing microbes to make a difficult decision

Clostridium difficile infects hundreds of thousands of people a year and is becoming increasingly difficult to treat. While investigating a C. difficile–specific antimicrobial derived from a genetically modified bacteriocin, Kirk et al. isolated strains resistant to the treatment, which were found to have mutations in the surface layer. The mutants had defensive defects and attenuated virulence but were still able to colonize the gut of hamsters. In addition to revealing biology about C. difficile, these findings showcase how making targeted antimicrobials can force bacteria into forgoing virulence in favor of survival.