To their amazement, bacteria engineered so they didn’t sense starvation were thousands of times more sensitive to killing than those that could.
"That experiment was a turning point," Singh said. "It told us that the resistance of starved bacteria was an active response that could be blocked. It also indicated that starvation-induced protection only occurred if bacteria were aware that nutrients were running low."
Further research showed that the starvation shutdown response protected them from the toxic form of oxygen, chemically hyperactive free radicals. Free radicals are also what antiobiotics generate when killing bacteria. Elegant.
|Bacterial clusters living in the lungs of a cystic |
fibrosis patient are highly resistant to
killing by antibiotics
The good news goes beyond understanding the problem. Existing antibiotics that may seem ineffective today may get a power boost of up to a thousand fold on certain resistant bacteria.
Edited from Science Daily News reporting on work by lead author Dr. Dao Nguyen (McGill), Dr. Singh and others.