An antibiotic whose effectiveness has been on the wane in recent years after bacteria started developing resistance to it might get a new lease on life thanks to some serious chemistry work.
Vancomycin, an antibiotic derived from a soil-dwelling bacterium originally found in Borneo, has been used to treat a range of bacterial infections over the last 56 years. It works by latching onto bacterial cell walls and preventing them from sealing closed. This leaves the microbes leaky and unable to survive. The drug has been used successfully to treat infections by bacteria that had developed resistance to other antibiotics.
But since at least the late 1980s, several types of bacteria have been evolving defenses against the drug. All that it takes for the microorganism to develop resistance is an alteration in a single amino acid in the cell wall for the drug to be much less successful at binding to it. That alteration has shown up in several bacterial species within the genera Enterococcus and Staphylococcus, two common sources of debilitating or fatal infections around the world.