FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Research shows communication between bacteria

Research released by Western University on Thursday shows how certain bacterium can communicate and help each other resist antibiotics.

Bacteria, like Burkholderia cenocepacia, are able to resist antibiotic treatment. The researchers set out to understand why it was able to do so.

The researchers found a population of antibiotic resistant cells create and share small molecules with less resistant cells. The molecules are derived from modified amino acids, which are the building blocks for proteins, protect the most sensitive cells of the bacteria.

A bacteria like Burkholderia cenocepacia will not only send these protective molecules to its own cells, but also to other nearby bacteria. These bacterium could be anything from the CF pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa to E. coli.

"These findings reveal a new mechanism of antimicrobial resistance based on chemical communication among bacterial cells by small molecules that protect against the effect of antibiotics," Dr. Miguel Valvano, adjunct professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said. "This paves the way to design novel drugs to block the effects of these chemicals, thus effectively reducing the burden of antimicrobial resistance."

The research, funded by a grant from Cystic Fibrosis Canada and a separate grant from Marie Curie Career Integration, was conducted at Western University. The findings were published in PLOS ONE.