Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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The Lifestyle Factor

Bacterial lifestyle – being free-swimming or growing as a biofilm – influences drug sensitivity

14 November 2019

The Lifestyle Factor

The ability of pathogenic bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics is a major problem in modern medicine and a growing threat. As well as the search for entirely new antibiotic drugs, researchers are testing combinations of existing antibiotics to combat hard-to-kill pathogens. Figuring out which drugs to use and when requires insight into how resistance develops and how new vulnerabilities arise. Indeed, research indicates that resistance may depend on how the bug grows – whether in a biofilm (like the one pictured), or free-swimming. The opportunistic human pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii, for example, grows more robustly in a biofilm than when free-swimming, yet the latter lifestyle provides the bug with far greater resistance to two different types of antibiotic. Insights into the lifestyles of bacteria in the body and how those lifestyles influence drug sensitivity could thus inform drug delivery decisions and lead to optimised treatments.

Written by Ruth Williams

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