Antibiotics give rise to new communities of harmful bacteria 

Researchers identify unexpected activity of antibiotics, potentially reshaping our understanding of why antibiotics evolved and pointing to broad health implications

Most people have taken an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection. Now researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of San Diego, La Jolla, reveal that the way we often think about antibiotics – as straightforward killing machines – needs to be revised.

The work, led by Elizabeth Shank, an assistant professor of biology ……  …… …… not only adds a new dimension to how we treat infections, but also might change our understanding of why bacteria produce antibiotics in the first place.

“For a long time we’ve thought that bacteria make antibiotics for the same reasons that we love them – because they kill other bacteria,” said Shank, whose work appears in the February 23 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “However, we’ve also known that antibiotics can sometimes have pesky side-effects, like stimulating biofilm formation.”


“That suggests that antibiotics can independently and simultaneously induce potentially dangerous biofilm formation in other bacteria and that these activities may be acting through specific signaling pathways,” said Shank. “It has generated further discussion about the evolution of antibiotic activity, and the fact that some antibiotics being used therapeutically may induce biofilm formation in a strong and specific way, which has broad implications for human health.”

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Microbial communities are often organized in biofilms, which are recognized as bacteria and other microorganisms attached to a surface and embedded in a self-produced matrix. Biofilms are present on a variety of surfaces – from stones and plants in aquatic environments to water distribution tubes, air conditioning facilities, and also in our own bodies, for instance in the digestion system. Additionally, infectious diseases often involve biofilm formation by pathogenic bacteria.                                                                                              Excerpts From:

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