Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Charitable' behavior found in bacteria

Date:
September 1, 2010
Source:
Boston University College of Engineering
Summary:
Researchers have discover "charitable" behavior in bacteria populations, where individuals with the highest antibiotic resistance sacrifice so the whole population can better fight off medication.

Sebaldella termitidis bacteria.
Credit: Janice Haney Carr/CDC/ Brian J. Beck

Researchers at Boston University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard have discovered that charitable behavior exists in one of the most microscopic forms of life -- bacteria. Their findings appear in the Sept. 2 issue of Nature.

In studying the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, the researchers found that the populations most adept at withstanding doses of antibiotics are those in which a few highly resistant isolates sacrifice their own well being to improve the group's overall chance of survival.

This bacterial altruism results when the most resistant isolates produce a small molecule called indole.

Indole acts as something of a steroid, helping the strain's more vulnerable members bulk up enough to fight off the antibiotic onslaught. But while indole may save the group, its production takes a toll on the fitness level of the individual isolates that produce it.

"We weren't expecting to find this," said lead investigator James J. Collins, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute. "Typically, you would expect only the resistant strains to survive, with the susceptible ones dying off in the face of antibiotic stress. We were quite surprised to find the weak strains not only surviving, but thriving."

The findings also shed new light on the level of complexity and heterogeneity within bacterial strains. Until now, it was assumed that the overall resistance level of any given population was reflected in each of its isolates. Instead, Collins and his team found that dramatic differences can exist within a single population with some bacteria showing exceptional resistance and some almost none, not unlike cancer cells in humans.

The fact that the full complexity of bacteria strains can now be more accurately understood has significant ramifications for the medical community. "Now, when we measure the resistance in a population, we'll know that it may be tricking us," said Collins. "We'll know that even an isolate that shows no resistance can put up a stronger battle against antibiotics thanks to its buddies."

Collins is a founder of the field of synthetic biology, an area of research that combines science and engineering to construct new biological circuits that can reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, much like we program computers now.

His research at Boston University has also led to the development of a new class of medical devices being developed at the Wyss Institute, including vibrating insoles that help reduce falls among elderly users and normalize the gait of children with cerebral palsy.

"The Wyss Institute was founded on the premise that by breaking down institutional barriers and bringing together some of the world's top minds in science and engineering, we could accelerate transformative discovery," said Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director of the Wyss Institute. "I'm proud to say that the research being done by Dr. Collins is a great example of how this vision is beginning to play out."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Engineering. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Henry H. Lee, Michael N. Molla, Charles R. Cantor, James J. Collins. Bacterial charity work leads to population-wide resistance. Nature, 2010; 467 (7311): 82 DOI: 10.1038/nature09354

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Engineering. "'Charitable' behavior found in bacteria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901132157.htm>.
Boston University College of Engineering. (2010, September 1). 'Charitable' behavior found in bacteria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901132157.htm
Boston University College of Engineering. "'Charitable' behavior found in bacteria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100901132157.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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