URBANA, Ill. - When humans get bacterial infections, we reach for antibiotics to make us feel better faster.

For decades, farmers have been spraying streptomycin on apple and pear trees to kill the bacteria that cause fire blight, a serious disease that costs over $100 million annually in the United States alone.

But just like in human medicine, the bacteria that cause fire blight are becoming increasingly resistant to streptomycin.

That's why a group of scientists from the University of Illinois and Nanjing Agricultural University in China are studying two new antibiotics--kasugamycin and blasticidin S--while there's still time.

If bacteria develop resistance later on, we will know more about how to attack the problem," says Youfu Zhao, associate professor of plant pathology in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, and co-author on a new study published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.

The bacterium that causes fire blight, Erwinia amylovora, is a relative of E. coli, a frequently tested model system for antibiotic sensitivity and resistance.

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