Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to global health that grows larger with each passing day. A team of researchers at Duke University have developed an interesting approach to the problem after stumbling upon an overlooked “Achilles' heel” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The finding may give us an unexpected advantage in the fight against superbugs.

In a study, now published in PLOS Computational Biology, researchers Hannah Meredith, Allison Lopatkin, Deverick Anderson, and Lingchong You explain how some antibiotic-resistant bacteria have a window of time where they are extra sensitive to antibiotic treatment — somewhere after the first dose of antibiotics. According to the press release, if antibiotics are delivered to the infection during the “sensitive” period, the population will continue to decline, regardless of the antibiotic concentration or the duration of treatment.

The trick is identifying this sensitive period, so the team created a new metric to help doctors know exactly when the window opens. The ultimate goal of the team is to create a standardized database to guide doctors of the optimal antibiotic use in order to improve results and extend shelf life. This guide may also help reintroduce certain antibiotics that have been discontinued for failure to treat bacterial pathogens.

Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon where, over time, bacteria and pathogens develop an ability to resist the effects of antibiotics. Unfortunately, practices such as antibiotic overuse and misuse have accelerated this process and made pathogens evolve at unprecedented rates. The result is superbugs, or strains of bacteria that are resistant to several types of antibiotics.

Humans have been unable to create new antibiotics that act as quickly as the pathogens evolve a resistance to them. The result is what the World Health Organization has called “a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.”

While this finding is noteworthy and may help in the fight against antibiotic resistance, the truth is that it can only go so far. Ultimately, the world needs more antibiotics in order to properly address this problem. WHO records report that at least 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses are caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the U.S. every year.

Fortune reported that a new class of antibiotics has not been discovered since 1987, and funding has been a major reason for lack of enthusiasm in drug research. Antibiotic revenue is nothing in comparison to that of other drugs.

The U.S. government has taken a hand in addressing the problem, with President Obama proposing a five-year plan, which, if approved by Congress, will invest $1.2 billion to cover both the testing and reporting of superbugs as well as accelerate research into new antibiotics and vaccines.

Source: Meredith H, Lopatkin A, Anderson D, You L. PLOS Computational Biology. 2015.