Scientists discover how bacteria escape antibiotics

Last Updated: Jan 10, 2014, 17:08 PM IST
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Zee Media Bureau

Washington: Researchers have discovered how some bacterial cells manage to escape the onslaught of antibiotics, according to a new study.

The study conducted by scientists from the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection at Imperial College London, found that bacterial cells become 'persisters' by entering a state in which they stop replicating and are able to tolerate antibiotics.

“Unlike antibiotic resistance, this tolerant phase is only temporary but it may contribute to the later development of resistance,” said researchers from the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection at Imperial College London.

The team have succeeded in visualising persister cells in infected tissues for the first time, and have identified signals that lead to their formation.

The team developed a method for tracking single cells using a fluorescent protein produced by the bacteria.

They showed that Salmonella, which causes gastroenteritis and typhoid fever, forms large numbers of non-replicating persisters after being engulfed by immune cells called macrophages.

By adopting this non-replicating mode, Salmonella survives antibiotic treatment and lingers in the host, accounting for its ability to cause recurrent infections.

“Now that we know the molecular pathways and mechanisms that lead to persister formation during infection, we can work on screening for new drugs to coax them out of this state so that they become vulnerable to antibiotics,” said lead author Sophie Helaine.

The study has been published in the journal 'Science'.

(With Agency inputs)