Dead bacteria absorb the antibiotic to allow others to survive

Bacteria have multiple strategies for surviving antibiotics: they develop drug resistance, delay growth, or protect themselves with a biofilm. New results show that they have developed a new capacity, self-sacrificing.

In a population of E.coli bacteria treated with a specific antimicrobial molecule, Princeton University researchers found that the dead cells absorbed a huge amount of antibiotic, so the other bacteria could survive and grow further. Researchers have created a fluorescent version of the antibiotic, says Phys.

Tracking the movement of fluorescent molecules through the bacterial population shows that the antibiotic accumulates in a subset of dead cells. The model created by Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Andrew Kosmrlj of Princeton University describes the dynamics of bacterial populations at various antimicrobial concentrations.

Credit: Beatrice Trinidad

“We have made a surprising observation of the inhibitory concentration of antimicrobial peptides according to the number of bacteria,” Kosmrj said.

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