Humans have been successful at treating a host of diseases. Yet some continue to elude medicine’s best attempts. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa have revealed how these diseases replicate by tracing the precise steps through which they use a gene absent in humans, called thyX, to code an enzyme to produce thymine. In a paper published online Jan. 28 in the journal Science, the Iowa chemists break down each stage in a rapid-fire chain of chemical reactions showing how thyX and the enzyme it encodes are used in the diseases’ DNA-production cycle. The discovery could lead to the creation of non-toxic antibiotics that block the chemical reaction involving thyX, rather than relying on the current method of testing millions of drug compounds in the hopes of finding one that would faithfully kill each disease.