Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dangerous Liaisons: Bacterial 'Sex' Causes Antibiotic Resistance

Date:
July 6, 2009
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Some disease-causing bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics because they have peculiar sex lives, say researchers publishing new results in the journal Science. The new study helps scientists understand how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, which is a major challenge for those treating infectious diseases.

Some disease-causing bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics because they have peculiar sex lives, say researchers publishing new results in the journal Science. The new study helps scientists understand how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, which is a major challenge for those treating infectious diseases, say the authors from Imperial College London.

Related Articles


Today's research looks at bacteria called pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae), which cause diseases including pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. Pneumococcal infections cause approximately one million deaths every year globally and the bacteria are becoming resistant to many antibiotics, making treatment increasingly difficult. The scientists behind today's study believe this resistance is due to the pneumococcal bacteria adapting by occasionally picking up DNA from other bacteria, even from other species.

Dr William Hanage, the lead author of the study from Imperial College London, said: "Bacteria have very peculiar sex lives. When humans have kids they mix up their DNA with that of their partner, but bacteria can pick up DNA from all sorts of places, even other species. Our research shows that bacteria which do this, that is undergo sex, with their own and other species are more likely to develop resistance to antibiotics, protecting them from being killed by these drugs."

Bacteria reproduce asexually, by splitting in two to produce identical 'daughter' cells. Sometimes, however, they can take up DNA from other bacteria or the environment, and incorporate it into their own genome. This mixing process, called recombination, is what happens in animals during sexual reproduction. It is most common between bacteria of the same species but, unlike animals, bacteria can sometimes undergo recombination with different species of bacteria, which means the daughter cells end up with DNA from those species.

Some combinations of DNA help bacteria to survive better. It appears that antibiotic resistant strains of pneumococcus are more likely to mix up their DNA in this way, and so are more likely to hit upon the adaptation which helps them resist antibiotic treatment.

Dr William Hanage added: "Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, particularly for potentially dangerous pneumococcal infections. Our new findings help us to understand how bacteria can wriggle their way out of tight spaces, finding ways to evade the drugs we bombard them with. Ultimately, we hope that we could use this knowledge to limit the emergence of new types of antibiotic resistance."

The researchers examined DNA from 1,930 different S. pneumoniae strains, as well as three closely related species, S. mitis, S. pseudopneumoniae and S. oralis collected by a method called Multi Locus Sequence Typing (MLST). They were able to find strains with DNA which suggested recombination, or the mixing of DNA with other members of the same species, and other closely related ones.

The researchers then compared these results with data on resistance to the commonly-used antibiotics penicillin, erythromycin, tetracycline, chloramphenicol and cefotaxime. They found that bacteria with mixed DNA were more likely to be resistant to antibiotics, suggesting a link between recombination and antibiotic resistance.

This research was funded by The Royal Society, a BBSRC studentship and a grant from the Academy of Finland.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Dangerous Liaisons: Bacterial 'Sex' Causes Antibiotic Resistance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090611142402.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2009, July 6). Dangerous Liaisons: Bacterial 'Sex' Causes Antibiotic Resistance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090611142402.htm
Imperial College London. "Dangerous Liaisons: Bacterial 'Sex' Causes Antibiotic Resistance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090611142402.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins