Scientists from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have identified a novel way to block the development of drug resistance in hospital superbugs.
They suggest that these potentially deadly bacteria are into casual sex, and tend to indulge in sex with any other bugs they bump into, thus passing on genes for antibiotic resistance, the scientists said.
Blocking the bacterial sex may stall the spread of antibiotic resistance in superbugs, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Researchers Erik Sontheimer and Luciano Marraffini claim to have found a 'molecular condom' that inhibits disease-causing bacteria from spreading genes that lead to antibiotic resistance.
They have identified a gene sequence, called CRISPR that protects bacteria against the transmission of harmful genes by attacking invading DNA.
The defence also stops bacteria from sopping up DNA in the environment, another common route to antibiotic resistance.
Sontheimer said that CRISPR interference works a little like RNA interference - a trick that complex eukaryotic cells use to block viruses and parasitic DNA stretches called transposons.
"There's still a lot that we don't know about all this," New Scientist quoted him as saying.
The study appears in journal Science.