Researchers have revealed that a spoonful of sugar not only makes medicine easier to swallow, but it can also boost its effectiveness.
James Collins, a pioneering researcher in the new field of systems biology, is talking about his recent development of an effective, low-cost - and surprising - way to treat chronic bacterial infections, such as staph, strep, tuberculosis, and infections of the urinary tract.
He and his team of scientists discovered that a simple compound - sugar - dramatically boosts the effectiveness of first-line antibiotics.
Collins' approach consists of adding sugar to the antibiotic. The sugar acts as a stimulant, essentially turning on normal bacterial responses, such as dying when confronted by a killer antibiotic.
Using this strategy on E. coli bacteria, a common cause of urinary tract infections, the team was able to eliminate 99.9 per cent of the persisters within just two hours - compared to no effect without sugar.
The study has been published in the journal Nature.