Bacteria gang up to thwart antibiotics

Researchers have found that the bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa — a pathogen that cause pneumonia, sepsis and other infections — communicates distress signals within a group of bacteria in response to certain antibiotics. This communication was found to vary across the colony and suggests that this bacterium may develop protective behaviours which contribute to its ability to tolerate some antibiotics. The findings reveal that the microbe may have some capability to protect the colony from some external toxins even as it continued to be in a colonising phase. The reported behaviour was caused by tobramycin, an antibiotic commonly used in clinical settings, and resulted in a dual signal response. As this antibiotic was applied to a colony of P.aeruginosa, the bacteria produced a signal to a localised area of the colony — a Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) that is known to occur as well as a second, community-wide response, known as the alkyl hydroxyquinoline (AQNO). The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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