Resistance to antimicrobial agents undermines our ability to treat bacterial infections. It attracts intense media and political interest and impacts on personal health and costs to health infrastructures. Bacteria have developed resistance to all licensed antibacterial agents, and their ability to become resistant to unlicensed agents is often demonstrated during the development process. Conventional approaches to antimicrobial development, involving modification of existing agents or production of synthetic derivatives, are unlikely to deliver the range or type of drugs that will be needed to meet all future requirements. Although many companies are seeking novel targets, further radical approaches to both antimicrobial design and the reversal of resistance are now urgently required. In this article, we discuss 'antisense' (or 'antigene') strategies to inhibit resistance mechanisms at the genetic level. These offer an innovative approach to a global problem and could be used to restore the efficacy of clinically proven agents. Moreover, this strategy has the potential to overcome critical resistances, not only in the so-called 'superbugs' (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, glycopeptide-resistant enterococci and multidrug-resistant strains of Acinetobacter baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa), but in resistant strains of any bacterial species.
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