Scientists are looking at a revolutionary new way of killing hospital infections such as C difficile.
Experts at St Andrews and Aberdeen universities have been studying how tiny openings on the cell walls of bacteria open and close to release pressure.
If these openings did not operate properly, pressure would be allowed to build up and the bacteria would explode and die.
The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that by controlling the openings it would be possible to slow the growth of bacteria or kill them.
They say the next stage is to find new chemicals that will help to keep the channels open or shut.
Professor James Naismith, who led the St Andrews University research, said: “The motion is just like that of a camera iris, and being able to see this motion is an amazing discovery.
“Not only is this a major step forward in scientific understanding of a fundamental process in biology, but it paves the way for the development of new drugs against bacteria.
“It is vital to the bacteria that the channel fully closes and only opens at the right times, as mistakes either way would be fatal.”
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