The research team alongside colleagues from the University of St Andrews have been investigating the bacteria Pectobacterium chrysanthemi that afflicts plants - particularly Saintpaulia. It operates by competing with its host for iron.
But the research project has discovered the method by which the bacteria harvests iron, using an enzyme catalyst called achromobactin which binds citric acid.
They have found a way to block or inhibit this chemical pathway so that the bacterium is starved of iron.
Members of the Warwick University research team, which has undertaken further work into the area, believe the discovery may provide help in the treatment of several virulent and even deadly mammalian infections including anthrax.
The article on African violet pathogen research, by Dr Nadia Kadi, Dr Daniel Oves-Costales, Dr Lijiang Song and Professor Gregory Challis et al, appears in the March 2009 issue of Nature Chemical Biology.