© 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 AT DEATH'S DOOR: Negatively stained Pseu-domonas aeruginosa (A) untreated, (B) treated with amphipathic a helical lytic peptide dia-stereomer (containing both L- and D-amino acids), and (C) treated with with the all L-amino acid peptide. All were treated at 60% of their minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC). At or above the MIC, significant lysis occurs (not shown). (Y. Shai, "Mode of action of membrane active antimicrobial peptides," Biopolymers (Petp Sci), 66:236-48, 2002)

The next generation of antibiotics could greatly benefit medicine, many researchers say. It also could, some warn, be quite dangerous. Prompting this debate is a class of drugs based on antimicrobial peptides that all animals and plants produce to fight infections. Studies over the past 15 years have found that these peptides, called AMPs, are powerful germ-killers.

But their most remarkable property, proponents say, is that they rarely spur the evolution of resistant microorganisms....

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