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Monday, August 11, 2008

Israeli Scientists Find New Ways To Kill "Die Hard" Bacteria

Perhaps one of the most abundant organisms on our planet, bacteria serve a useful role in helping keep all of us alive. Unfortunately there are a "few" out there who attempt to kill us, promoting many doctors to issue antibiotics in an attempt to fight off some of the more deadly species.

While this generally works for most of the tiny creatures, some bacteria seem to have found a way to fend off being destoyed by slowing down their metabolism. Fortunately for us, an Israeli scientist may have found a way to kill off these pests as well.

(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affiars) Although antibiotics are the preferred treatment against bacterial infection and disease, it has become apparent that some diseases can't be treated simply by administering antibiotics. Sub-populations of some bacteria can avoid the lethal antibiotics by decreasing their metabolism, remaining dormant for days and waiting for the right opportunity to strike again.

Researchers at the Hebrew University studied these dormant bacteria and found two new ways to kill them: either by subjecting the bacteria to a fresh dose of nutrients together with the antibiotic treatment, or by infecting those dormant bacteria with phages, namely viruses that attack bacteria. In both cases the survival of these dormant bacteria was significantly reduced. 

While the idea of using phages may make some people nervous (as the word 'virus' usually doesn't bring up thoghts of joy), tempting these harmful bacteria with "sweetened poison" could allow us to finally exterminate these tiny pests, saving doctors as well as patients both time and money (at least for the patient that is).

(Image: Escherichia coli, Credit: National Institute of Health)

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