When dealing with infectious diseases, scientists often look for ways of nipping them in the bud. Targeting enzymes involved in replication, or fission, in bacteria can stop or slow down their growth. The human pathogen S. pneumoniae is particularly nasty as it can spread very quickly from the respiratory system through the blood to the joints and bones, resulting in pneumonia, meningitis or a brain abscess. These images show the effects of removing an enzyme called StkP from S. pneumoniae (stained green with an antibiotic). A single S. pneumoniae, shaped like an American football usually replicates by building a wall precisely in the middle of the cell and then prising itself apart into two cells (left panel). S. pneumoniae lacking StkP build multiple walls, as if unguided (right panel), and can’t reproduce normally. Investigating how StkP influences bacteria architecture will help combat the spread of S. pneumoniae–related diseases.
Written by John Ankers
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