Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Metabolic state matters for antibiotic lethality

Bactericidal antibiotics kill pathogens and understanding the mechanisms of antibiotic lethality is important for combatting persistent infections. Both the growth rate and metabolic state of cells affect antibiotic lethality, but they are interrelated as growth affects metabolism and vice versa. Lopatkin et al. investigated the relative contribution of growth and metabolic state to antibiotic lethality by measuring growth rate and metabolism across a range of conditions (nine drugs of different classes, and diverse Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria) in which growth and metabolism were coupled and uncoupled (conditions in which only growth is nutrient-limited). The authors found that metabolic state and ATP levels at the time of treatment are more accurate predictors of lethality than growth rate, and determined a critical ATP threshold below which antibiotic lethality is negligible. These findings suggest that antibiotics will kill non-growing bacteria if metabolism is stimulated.


Original article

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ashley York.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

York, A. Metabolic state matters for antibiotic lethality. Nat Rev Microbiol 17, 646 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing