SCIENTISTS at Hatfield's University of Hertfordshire have been investigating how to kill harmful bugs with antibiotics - even when they are asleep.

Traditional antibiotics are effective at killing bacteria which cause disease when they are in their usual active state, but not when they are inactive and hibernating.

In a paper published this month using advanced mathematical models, university researchers Ole Steuernagel and Daniel Polani describe how to kill hibernating germs, including notorious superbugs such as E Coli and MRSA, by giving a patient antibiotics at particular stages - typically a large dose as soon as an infection is identified, and another six days later.

Dr Steuernagel, a specialised phycicist rather than a biologist, said: "It may not be enough just to kill off the active bacteria - the hibernating rest will wake up and reestablish themselves.

"This is the first time that this approach has been used in a bug eradication scenario - our solutions should be more efficient than existing approaches to kill hibernating bugs. Our research is an example of how mathematics is the new microscope for biology."