Drug resistant infectious organisms pose a very serious threat to society, and are perhaps one of the biggest challenges that medical researchers face in their fight to keep people healthy.

Despite the trouble that antibiotic resistance has caused for modern medicine over the years, researchers at the University of Gothenburg are taking on an innovative project that may help put this evolutionary phenomenon in check.

Since evolution creates random variations in the characteristics of organisms, which results in some of them developing resistance to drugs to which they are exposed,  one way of combating drug resistance is to slow down the pace of evolution. And the research team is using advanced genetic experiments to try to find substances capable of just that.

In the first instance, this involves identifying the cell components that regulate the speed of evolution. Jonas Warringer and his colleagues are using ordinary brewer's yeast as a model for their studies. A yeast has 6,000 genes, and destroying single genes in otherwise identical organisms enables Jonas Warringer and his colleagues to use the method of exclusion.

"We stimulate the evolution of the yeast cell and observe it in real time. As our yeasts develop resistance to a particular drug, we measure how the survivability of the different strains changes during the process. Evolution progresses more slowly in some strains when a specific component is destroyed. These strains are like gold dust to us, because they tell us that these particular components are critical to the speed of evolution," says Jonas Warringer.

"This is how we eventually found the genes that regulate evolution. If, in the next phase, we can find a substance that can attack one of these components, we will be able to delay the development of drug resistance and ensure that today's drugs remain effective into the future."