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DNA analysis key to beating MRSA

The genes of common bacteria could yield a "treasure trove" of therapeutic drugs to combat the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria, a leading scientist said yesterday.

Eriko Takano and his Dutch team have already discovered a promising new antibiotic extracted from the soil bug Streptomyces after the scientists found and activated a particular group of dormant genes in the microbe through a process of genome "mining".

In tests, the compound made by the genes was effective against several bacterial strains, including E.coli.

Dr Takano, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, said: "The strategy is a powerful and innovative way of searching for new antibiotic production capabilities in bacteria. As bacterial infections previously considered as mild and easily curable are suddenly becoming lethal and completely unresponsive to all existing medication, it is crucial that new antibiotics are discovered at a sufficiently rapid rate."

The research is published today in the journal Microbiology.