Now You Know

Monday, November 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What’s new: MU researchers are trying to find a way to break the protective coating of a bacterium resistant to antibiotics. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common bacterium found in soil, water and even restaurant salad bars, doesn’t affect healthy humans, but it can be harmful to those with weakened immune systems. These include burn victims, people with cystic fibrosis and chemotherapy patients.

How it’s being done: Lesa Beamer, MU associate professor of biochemistry, studies the three-dimensional structures of enzymes that create the coating around bacteria and prevent antibiotics from getting in. Beamer determines which portions of the enzyme are important, how they are arranged and what function they serve. Peter Tipton, professor of biochemistry, studies how enzymes work.

Why it matters: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s most pressing health problems. Deciphering the structure of enzymes will help researchers understand their mechanisms and might lead to the creation of more effective antibiotics.

For more information: Visit the CDC Web site at

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