Herbicides are typically thought of as chemicals that environmentalists love to hate because of their side effects in humans and other creatures. But one of the world's most widely used herbicides, Monsanto Co.'s Roundup, could find a place in the pharmaceutical world as a template for new therapeutics.

Researchers at Michael Reese Medical Center in Chicago reported in Nature that a plant pathway interrupted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is present in some important human pathogens. The pathway is a good target for therapeutic development in many diseases caused by intracellular parasitic microbes, they said.