Scientists discover new method by which bacteria become resistant to antibiotics

Saturday, May 14, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: bacteria, antibiotics, health news

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(NaturalNews) Overuse of antibiotics both in conventional livestock feed and in human medical applications has led to increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotic drugs. However, a new study published in the online journal Nature Chemical Biology suggests that bacteria have also found another way to become resistant to popular antibiotics, and it involves becoming dormant and flying under the radar in the presence of antibiotics.

"Through our research, we're understanding that some bacteria go to 'sleep,' and that antibiotics only work on bacteria that are metabolically active," said Thomas wood, a professor at the Texas A&M University Department of Chemical Engineering, and author of the study. "You need actively growing bacteria to be susceptible to antibiotics. If the bacterium goes to sleep, the antibiotics, no matter what they do, are not effective because the bacterium is no longer doing the thing that the antibiotic is trying to shut down."

Under most circumstances, bacteria mutate in response to excessive or prolonged use of synthetic antibiotic drugs. After a while, bacteria genes literally change, making them immune to the effects of antibiotics. But now, researchers have observed that bacterial cells can actually cause their walls to become dormant by damaging the cells' own internal antitoxins. In the end, antibiotics simply have no place to affix on bacterial cells, which protects them from destruction.

"A small community of bacteria is, in a sense, hedging its bet against a threat to its survival by taking another approach," added Wood. "If we can determine that this 'going to sleep' is the dominant mechanism utilized by bacteria, then we can begin to figure out how to 'wake them up' so that they will be more susceptible to the antibiotic."

According to a study published last year in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, nearly 50,000 hospital patients die every year as a result of exposure to antibiotic-resistant superbugs ( Two natural remedies for superbugs include Manuka honey ( and healing clays like bentonite (

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