Scientists at Abbott Laboratories have genetically engineeredan erythromycin-producing bacterium to produce an improvedform of the antibiotic.

Because of its acid-stable properties, chemists have predictedthat the derivative, 6-deoxy-erythromycin A (deoxy Er A),would last longer in the stomach than Er. But deoxy Er A haseluded chemical synthetic techniques.

The Abbott team reported in Friday's issue of Science thattargeted disruption of one of the genes responsible for Ersynthesis, located in the bacterium Saccharopolysporaerythraea, caused the bacterium to produce deoxy Er A.

The scientists showed that deoxy Er A was stable in acid andthat the antibiotic was as efficacious as Er against infection bythree strains of pathogenic bacteria in mice.

The authors speculated that the targeted gene disruptionapproach might also lead to the development of other new andimproved antibiotics.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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