Shalom Life | October 18, 2015

Israeli Researchers Discover Why Bacteria Are Becoming Tolerant to Antibiotics

Using the quantitative approach of physicists, they learn that bacteria can quickly evolve to predict exactly when exposure to antibiotics will occur

By: Michael Lefkoe, NoCamels

Published: August 7th, 2014 in Health » Israel

It has been nearly nine decades since Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of Penicillin at his Paddington laboratory in 1928, and today well over a hundred different types of antibiotics exist for numerous bacterial infections. A growing concern in modern medicine, however, is the ability of pathogenic bacteria to evolve strategies for overcoming antibiotic treatments. Many antibiotics such as ampicillin and erythromycin, for example, which used to kill off whole bacterial populations with great efficacy, are now capable of much less due to this alarming phenomenon of bacterial tolerance.

Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem recently made an important discovery that advances our understanding of how bacteria are able to develop tolerance to antibiotics. Using the quantitative approach of physicists, they discovered that bacteria can quickly evolve to predict exactly when exposure to antibiotics will occur. As a result, the infectious bacteria will learn to lie dormant during the precise period of exposure, giving the population greater chance at survival.

To illustrate this striking phenomenon, consider a patient taking antibiotics on a fixed schedule for some bacterial infection he had the misfortune to develop. Perhaps his doctor told him to take the antibiotics three times a day for ten days, spacing each dosage throughout the day at equal intervals. As this study indicates, the bacteria population may evolve after just a few days to modify its dormancy period to coincide with the duration of antibiotic exposure. To be sure, in the dormant stage nothing is absorbed by the bacteria, not even those “powerful” antibiotics.

A study on tolerance…for antibiotics

This Remarkable Discovery Proves Bacteria Are Becoming Tolerant To Antibiotics And Even Explains The Interesting Reason Why

Prof. Nathalie Balaban

Professor Nathalie Balaban, a physics professor at Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics, led the team of researchers, whose findings were published in last month’s issue of “Nature.” The main objective of their research was to gain a better understanding of the bacterial strategy to overcome antibiotic stress known as tolerance, which is not as well understood as the other adaptation strategy known as resistance. According to the literature, resistance enables a microorganism to continue growing while exposed to a specific antibiotic, whereas tolerance allows microorganisms to survive under antibiotic stress, regardless of the type of antibiotic present.

This article was first published on NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News and was re-posted with permission. To continue reading this article on the site, click here.

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