Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Antibiotic-Sensitive Bacteria

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Antibiotic-Sensitive Bacteria

Article excerpt

Many infections, even those caused by antibiotic-sensitive bacteria, resist treatment. A key cause of this resistance is that bacteria become starved for nutrients during infection. Starved bacteria resist killing by nearly every type of antibiotic, even ones they have never been exposed to before.

What produces starvation-induced antibiotic resistance, and how can it be overcome? In a paper that appeared recently in Science, researchers report some surprising answers.

"Bacteria become starved when they exhaust nutrient supplies in the body, or if they live clustered together in groups known as biofilms," said Dr. Dao Nguyen, lead author of the paper.

Biofilms are clusters of bacteria encased in a slimy coating and can be found both in the natural environment as well as in human tissues where they cause disease. For example, biofilm bacteria grow in the scabs of chronic wounds and the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis. Bacteria in biofilms tolerate high levels of antibiotics without being killed.

"A chief cause of the resistance of biofilms is that bacteria on the outside of the clusters have the first shot at the nutrients that diffuse in," said Dr. Pradeep Singh, senior author of the study. "This produces starvation of the bacteria inside clusters, and severe resistance to killing."

Starvation was previously thought to produce resistance because most antibiotics target cellular functions needed for growth. …

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