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Bacteria Communicate And Cooperate With Each Other
To Help Resist Antibiotics

5 July, 2013


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MessageToEagle.com - Bacteria are strange but also very powerful microorganisms that compete with one another using an array of destructive compounds and strategies.

Bacteria has the ability to cause disease and acquire antibiotic resistance genes from other bacteria in several ways.

Bacteria also have a unique ability to communicate and cooperate with each other to resist antibiotic treatment.

A year ago, researchers conducted a study in order to better understand the so-called "quorum sensing", bacteria's communication system.

This kind of studies helps to develop future strategies for infection control.

"Perhaps, one day, we'll be able to manipulate infections so that bacterial cooperation is destabilized and infections are resolved, "said Dr. Peter Greenberg, UW professor of microbiology and one of the authors of the study.

Now, a new research from Western University unravels some of bacteria's secrets.


Image Credit: Supplied


B. cenocepacia, for example, is an environmental bacterium that causes devastating infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) or with compromised immune systems.

The more antibiotic resistant cells within a bacterial population produce and share small molecules with less resistant cells, making them more resistant to antibiotic killing, according to Dr. Miguel Valvano, a Professor holding a Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom, and Omar El-Halfawy, PhD candidate, and the first author of the research.

These small molecules, which are derived from modified amino acids (the building blocks used to make proteins), protect not only the more sensitive cells of B. cenocepacia but also other bacteria including a highly prevalent CF pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli.

"These findings reveal a new mechanism of antimicrobial resistance based on chemical communication among bacterial cells by small molecules that protect against the effect of antibiotics," says Dr. Valvano.

"This paves the way to design novel drugs to block the effects of these chemicals, thus effectively reducing the burden of antimicrobial resistance."

"These small molecules can be utilized and produced by almost all bacteria with limited exceptions, so we can regard these small molecules as a universal language that can be understood by most bacteria," says El-Halfawy, who called the findings exciting.

"The other way that Burkholderia communicates its high level of resistance is by releasing small proteins to mop up, and bind to lethal antibiotics, thus reducing their effectiveness."

The next step is to find ways to inhibit this phenomenon, researchers say.

The research is published in PLOS ONE.


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See also:
Bacteria Are Mathematicians! They Use Sophisticated "Game Theory", "Prisoner's Dilemma," And "Chemical Twitter" To Make Decisions

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