Saturday 14 June 2014

Lonely bacteria trigger antibiotic resistance

Bacteria that are found in lower numbers are more likely to mutate, resulting in higher rates of antibiotic resistance, new research has concluded.
Researchers have drawn a connection between the environment and the ability of bacteria to develop the resistance.
Specifically, the research team discovered that the rate at which E. coli mutates depends upon how many 'friends' it has around. It seems that more lonely organisms are more likely to mutate. Related research showed that low population of bacteria developed greater resistance to the well-known antibiotic Rifampicin, used to treat tuberculosis.
From these observations, the research team argue that the change of the mutation rate is controlled by a form of social communication known as quorum sensing -- this is the way bacteria communicate to let each other know how much of a crowd there is. Quorum sensing can occur within a single bacterial species as well as between diverse species, and can regulate a host of different processes, in essence, serving as a simple indicator of population density or the diffusion rate of the bacterium’s immediate environment.

Scientists hope to build on these observations in the fight against antibiotic resistance. The study was carried out at The University of Manchester and the results have been published in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper titled “Mutation rate plasticity in rifampicin resistance depends on Escherichia coli cell–cell interactions”.

Posted by Tim Sandle

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