Disrupting bacteria signals could hold key to circumventing antibiotic resistance

New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows it may be possible to prevent the spread of deadly infections by manipulating the signals bacteria send that allow it to develop resistance to treatments.

Researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign conducted the study, which identified a mechanism that enables same-species bacteria to communicate when facing threats to their survival.

The study details how a bacteria group growing successfully produces a unique molecule telling it to go into a dormant (but virulent) state and slow growth until more resources are available. It also produces a molecule that kills off other bacteria species fighting for the same scarce resources.

"Bacteria can share adaptations very easily, and there are so many bacteria with different adaptations to share, which is why they can develop resistance so quickly," said Satish Nair, PhD, a co-author of the study and a biochemistry professor at University of Illinois.

The new research focuses on targeting the molecule that sends the signal to slow down. Researchers studied how bacteria produce the molecule. This paves the way for developing molecules that can disrupt the communication of specific bacteria, allowing little chance for resistance to develop.

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