It may be possible to slow dangerous infections by manipulating the messages between bacteria of the same species when their survival is threatened. This may allow the body to defeat an infection without causing the bacteria to develop resistance to the treatment, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new study targets the language, or group signal, that bacteria use to slow down growth rather than the antibiotic signal to kill. The researchers say understanding how bacteria produce the dormancy-signal molecule paves the way for developing molecules that can disrupt the communication of specific bacteria, with little chance for drug resistance to develop.

“We don’t need to kill bacteria to treat disease and infection; we can just slow them down and make them less potent,” researchers said. “That way, there is little chance for any resistance to develop.”