Study Reveals That A Dying Bacteria Sacrifices Itself To Save Others Against Antibiotics

Study Reveals That A Dying Bacteria Sacrifices Itself To Save Others Against Antibiotics

Bacterial infection and its subsequent complication are one of the world’s leading cause of death in the last decade. Scientists pointed out that the rise in the number of people dying of infection is the increase in bacterial immunity.

Common antibiotics no longer threaten some bacteria. Scientists argue that bacteria have a different strategy to stay alive amid antibacterial medication. They said that these bacteria can survive antibiotics by developing genetic resistance to the drugs; delaying their growth; or hiding in protective biofilms. 

Image from Princeton University Website

On February 5, Princeton University said that there could be another way that bacteria can fight against antibiotics – sacrificing themselves for other bacteria to grow.

A new study from Princeton and California State University-Northridge (CSUN) reveals that some bacteria are sacrificing themselves and absorbs all the antibiotics so other neighboring bacteria can thrive and continue to grow.

Princeton University through their official website wrote: “In a population of E. coli bacteria treated with a particular antimicrobial molecule, the researchers found, some dying cells absorbed large amounts of the antibiotic, allowing their neighbors to survive and continue growing.”

Researchers created a modified, green fluorescent version of the antibiotic of interest, a peptide molecule known as LL37 that is naturally produced by human skin, airways and other organs that frequently contact bacteria from the outside world. By studying the movement and growth of the said bacteria, they discovered that the majority of the antibiotic pooled and are saturated in dying cells.

Another scientist, Andrej Košmrlj, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, joined forces with the CSUN team to develop a mathematical model to more fully explain the phenomenon and help further studies.

“The model provided a physical explanation for how this works,” said Košmrlj. “We had a surprising observation that the critical inhibitory concentration of antimicrobial peptides depends on the number of bacteria, and our model was able to explain why this happens.”

The increase in bacterial immunity is highly attributed to the irresponsible use of antibiotics both in pharmacology and home medicine. The world health organization has consistently warned patients to refrain from self-medicating.

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