- Good Samaritan' Bacteria Provides Clues for Bacteria Resistance Research
- Scientists recently discovered an altruistic type of bacteria that may lead to the next generation of disease-fighting antibiotics.
The bacteria version of a Good Samaritan helps bacteria that are non-resistant to antibiotics thrive despite the presence of a drug in the body. A team led by Boston University biologist James J. Collins found that while the resistance level of the whole population seemed high, the individual isolates actually had no increase in resistance. The weaker bacteria were surviving because of help from the resistant "Good Samaritan" bacteria. What does this mean for the development of antibiotics?
Collins' team exposed a culture of E. coli to graduated levels of antibiotics. With periodic analysis, they discovered that resistance levels were high, though only a few of the bacteria were resistant. These "mutants" secrete a molecule that prevents them from growing but that helps the rest of the population live. With this knowledge, scientists may be able to develop more effective antibiotics. Mark Anderson of NovaBay Pharmaceuticals says, "The findings suggest the possibility that scientists could one day use indole or indole-based therapeutic, if proven safe, to help beneficial bacteria outcompete pathogenic bacteria in the urinary tract or intestinal system."
Also, Collins notes, "These unicellular organisms can function as a multi-cellular organism of sorts." Doctors looking at singular samples on their own may not get the thorough picture they need to determine the extent of an infection or its resistance to antibiotics. This may lead to improved tracking of infection as well.
Infections have been ranked as the second leading cause of death. In dialysis patients alone, approximately 10 percent are hospitalized each year due to infections caused by recurrent antibiotic use, therefore making their bodies more susceptible to bacterial infections on a daily basis. Hemodialysis patients also experience a high rate of antimicrobial resistance due to the significant amount of procedures and hospital visits they endure due to their condition.
The Good Samaritan bacteria may end up being a Good Samaritan for antibiotic research and the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.