‘Lonely’ bacteria increase risk of antibiotic resistance


April 29, 2014
Health

Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered that ‘lonely’ microbes are more likely to mutate, resulting in higher rates of antibiotic resistance.

The study, published today in Nature Communications and jointly funded by The Wellcome Trust and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, explored the mutation rates of E. coli.

Researchers found out that the rate of mutation varied according to how many of the bacteria there were. Surprisingly, they discovered that more bacteria gave fewer mutations.

Meanwhile more ‘lonely’ bacteria developed greater resistance to the well-known antibiotic Rifampicin, used to treat tuberculosis.

Dr Chris Knight joint lead author on the study with Dr. Rok Krašovec from The University of Manchester, said: “What we were looking for was a connection between the environment and the ability of bacteria to develop the resistance to antibiotics. We 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.”

This 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. This involves the release of signalling molecules by bacteria when in a dense population to help the organisms understand their surrounding environment and coordinate behaviour to improve their defence mechanisms and adapt to the availability of nutrients.

Dr. Krašovec said: “We were able to change their mutation rates by changing who they shared a test tube with, which could mean that bacteria manipulate each other’s mutation rates. It also suggests that mutation rates could be affected when bacteria are put at low densities for instance by a person taking antibiotics.”

The rate of mutation was found to be dependent on the gene luxS which is known to be involved in quorum sensing in a wide range of bacteria.

The team now hopes to find ways to control this signalling for medical applications in a future study funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

“Eventually this might lead to interventions to control mutation rates, for instance to minimise the evolution of antibiotic resistance, allowing antibiotics to work better,” said Dr Knight.

Dr Mike Turner, Head of Infection and Immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust said: “Antibiotic resistance is a real threat to disease control and public health today. Any insight into the origins of such resistance is valuable in the fight to prevent it. Chris Knight and his team have gained a fundamental understanding of bacterial communication and the development of mutations which in the long run could contribute to more potent antibiotics and better control of bacterial disease”.


9 Responses to ‘Lonely’ bacteria increase risk of antibiotic resistance

  1. 14122040 May 1, 2014 at 3:08 am #

    Just like humans in confinement, confined bacteria also attempt to “break free”. Therefore, when there is a sudden change in a “lonely” bacterium’s surroundings or a bacterium gets an opportunity to modify itself or adjust to a changing environment, an abrupt mutation is highly likely. This makes the rapid replication of cancer cells easier to understand. In effect, taking antibiotics increases the mutation rate of “lonely” bacteria because the antibiotics alter the homeostasis of the “lonely” bacteria and the bacteria attempt to adapt in order to survive the altered conditions.

  2. 14013992 April 30, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    Drug or antibiotic resistance is where a microorganism, usually species of bacterial are surviving after the exposure to one or more antibiotics. It is know that if a person do not finish or complete his/her antibiotics course that specific bacteria will be resistant to that drug. All the bacteria will evolve into a resistance population. This only happen due to the negligence of a human. In the study that led to the statement they manipulated the circumstances in which the bacteria found themselves. For example, the same bacteria were placed in a group and then studied and then only one bacteria was studied in the same circumstances. The study showed that the more there are, the less they mutate and the less they are, the more they mutate. I think it goes hand in hand with evolution. The solitary organism must change, otherwise he cannot survive because he has no one that can help him counter the change, and therefore it is more likely to change. That is why it is then resistant to the medication, he adapted his new environment. The group of bacteria would counter the modification and thus have change less and therefore become extinct because they cannot adapt in the environment.

  3. 14011736 (Dawid Wolhuter) April 30, 2014 at 6:07 am #

    So taking antibiotics increases the mutation rate of bacteria? I think that is really bad, since doctors nowadays prescribe antibiotics for nearly everything. And a lot of people either forget to finish their dosage of antibiotics, or deem it not necessary. Which will then in turn increase the mutation of bacteria into much more drug resistant ones. I think the population should be more informed about these things, it might cause people to take antibiotics only when it is necessary and in turn will slow down the mutation of bacteria.
    Read more at http://scienceblog.com/72038/lonely-bacteria-increase-risk-of-antibiotic-resistance/#IThA3FBGFMTWeEOV.99

  4. 14084636 - sipho chauke April 30, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    This discovery could be an insight to find a way to prevent these lonely bacteria from becoming resistant. In terms of Tuberculosis bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics could be due to many factors, one of them being that the individual affected might stop taking the prescribed medication and therefore spreading the virus to other people but instead spreading the antibiotic resistant bacteria instead. Therefore as a suggestion to the biotechnology and microbiology department designing antibiotics that instantly remove these bacteria at one go instead of medication that requires one to induce everyday

  5. Neo Makgabo(14144159) April 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    i absolutely have no idea what lonely bacteria is. But from my understanding i think the reason why lonely bacteria is becoming more resistant because the same kind of antibiotic has been used through out ,therefore the lonely that where best suited for the conditions survived and the gene was passed on. This lead to an uneffective antibiotic .So the solution to this might ,is to come up with an effective antibiotic,that will decrease the level of resistance.

  6. 14031231 April 29, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    While an advancement or discovery in science (particularly in medicine) is never to be disregarded, the potential of this particular discovery to fight future antibiotic resistances, does not seem particularly evident.

    While understanding that the mutation of bacteria contributes our understanding of how antibiotic resistance comes about, it does not actually solve the problem of antibiotic resistance. What good is it to know how something comes about when there is absolutely no way of controlling its origin?

    Even though this discovery contributes to our understanding of the development of antibiotic resistance, it, in no way, helps us stop this phenomenon from actually occurring i.e. antibiotic resistance.

    While this discovery may contribute to stronger antibiotics (which will combat antibiotic resistance) it cannot stop the relentless evolution of bacteria which will always lead to the need for different antibiotics.

  7. 14083826 April 29, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    The findings of this study have made a valuable contribution to science and hopefully medicine as well, however, is it really an advancement? One would agree that we have witnessed a similar process numerous times since the discovery of antibiotics – namely the evolution of pathogenic bacteria. For example humans discovered pathogenic bacteria and came up with a cure i.e. antibiotics. The pathogenic bacteria then mutated and became resistant to the antibiotics which led to the development of more potent antibiotics and so on and so forth the process has continued. That being said I pose the question are we really making progress to combating pathogenic bacteria or are we also just adapting our cure to combat pathogenic bacteria?

  8. 14011736 (Dawid Wolhuter) April 29, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    So taking antibiotics increases the mutation rate of bacteria? I think that is really bad, since doctors nowadays prescribe antibiotics for nearly everything. And a lot of people either forget to finish their dosage of antibiotics, or deem it not necessary. Which will then in turn increase the mutation of bacteria into much more drug resistant ones. I think the population should be more informed about these things, it might cause people to take antibiotics only when it is necessary and in turn will slow down the mutation of bacteria.

  9. savannah watson (14004641) April 29, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    I neve thought I would here of lonely bacteria! Truly find this interesting.I cant but thinking of how people generally function better in a group than when alone.The advancements made are going to imprve the effects of antibiotics by making the bacteria les resitant.The fat the the bacteria communicae socially and become aware of thersurrondings through quorm sensoring I fnd fascinating.Since I tak Microbiology I enjoylearning aout he world of the small….

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