Researchers have discovered an antibiotic treatment that is effective against the food poisoning bug Listeria.

Listeria infection is the most lethal food-borne dsease known. Often fatal, the bacteria is found in soft cheeses, smoked salmon, pates, meats, and salad.

The infection is especially dangerous to those with weak immune systems, such as the elderly and the very young.

Listeria bacteria carries genes that make it highly resistant to antibiotic treatments.

However, the antibiotic, fosfomycin, killed Listeria in infected cells in laboratory mice.

The study, published in PLOS Genetics, revealed that the bacteria activates genes that cancel out the effects of the drug-destroying gene.

"The findings identify a potentially very useful antimicrobial (fosfomycin) to treat a life-threatening infectious disease (foodborne listeriosis). The current treatment is effective but the antimicrobials used do not permeate optimally into the Listeria infection sites (e.g. the intracellular compartment, the brain). The treatment thus requires the administration of high doses of antibiotics for many weeks," Jose Vazquez-Boland, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh's Division of Infection Medicine, explained to ALN.

"Introducing a highly permeant small molecule such as fosfomycin, with a potent bactericidal action and synergistic activity with other antimicrobials, in the combination therapy of Listeria infection, could accelerate the recovery of listeriosis patients and improve their clinical outcome."