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Bacteria Sleep, Then Rapidly Evolve, to Survive Antibiotic Treatments

09-02-2017

Hebrew University biophysicists used quantitative approaches from Physics to understand issues in Biology

Antibiotic resistance is a major and growing problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world, and new resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. But how these bacterial resistance mechanisms occur, and whether we can predict their evolution, is far from understood.

Researchers have shown (http://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/22060) that one way bacteria can survive antibiotics is to evolve a “timer” that keeps them dormant for the duration of antibiotic treatment. But the antibiotic kills them when they wake up, so the easy solution is to continue the antibiotic treatment for a longer duration.

Now, in new research published in the prestigious journal Science, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem report a startling alternative path to the evolution of resistance in bacteria. After evolving a dormancy mechanism, the bacterial population can then evolve resistance 20 times faster than normal. At this point, continuing to administer antibiotics won't kill the bacteria.

To investigate this evolutionary process, a group of biophysicists, led by Prof. Nathalie Balaban and PhD student Irit Levin-Reisman at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics, exposed bacterial populations to a daily dose of antibiotics in controlled laboratory conditions, until resistance was established. By tracking the bacteria along the evolutionary process, they found that the lethal antibiotic dosage gave rise to bacteria that were transiently dormant, and were therefore protected from several types of antibiotics that target actively growing bacteria. Once bacteria acquired the ability to go dormant, which is termed “tolerance,” they rapidly acquired mutations to resistance and were able to overcome the antibiotic treatment.

Thus, first the bacteria evolved to "sleep" for most of the antibiotic treatment, and then this "sleeping mode" not only transiently protected them from the lethal action of the drug, but also actually worked as a stepping stone for the later acquisition of resistance factors.

The results indicate that tolerance may play a crucial role in the evolution of resistance in bacterial populations under cyclic exposures to high antibiotic concentrations. The key factors are that tolerance arises rapidly, as a result of the large number of possible mutations that lead to it, and that the combined effect of resistance and tolerance promotes the establishment of a partial resistance mutation on a tolerant background.

These findings may have important implications for the development of new antibiotics, as they suggest that the way to delay the evolution of resistance is by using drugs that can also target the tolerant bacteria.

Unveiling the evolutionary dynamics of antibiotic resistance was made possible by the biophysical approach of the research team. The experiments were performed by a team of physicists, who developed a theoretical model and computer simulations that enabled a deep understanding of the reason behind the fast evolution of resistance that were observed.

 

Statement from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University and the Rothberg International School express our deep sorrow over the murder of Hannah Bladon

15-04-2017

Hebrew University Launches Multidisciplinary Centre on Cannabinoid Research

The new Centre will serve as one of the worlds leading institutes for conducting and coordinating research about cannabinoids, endocannabinoids and medical Cannabis

05-04-2017

20th annual Sternberg Ceremony at the Hebrew University

2017 marked the 20th anniversary of The Sir Sigmund and Lady Hazel Sternberg Prizes for Interfaith Understanding

04-04-2017

How stress controls haemoglobin levels in blood

Even at the cellular level, stress and the ability to mount a stress response are essential to our survival

04-04-2017

Teacher-Scholars Programme at the Faculty of Science of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Without these teachers, many of these high schools simply wouldn't have science teachers

30-03-2017

High burden of Iodine deficiency found in Israel’s first national survey

62% of school-age children and 85% of pregnant women have low iodine intakes

27-03-2017

The 64th Annual Dinner of the Legal Group of the British Friends of the Hebrew University

The evening was hosted by Lord Pannick QC, Chairman of the Legal Group

16-03-2017

Intel Buying Mobileye For $15 Billion In Biggest Israel Hi-Tech Deal Ever

In the biggest deal to ever hit Israels hi-tech industry, US chip giant Intel will be buying Jerusalem’s autonomous driving company Mobileye for about $15 billion

13-03-2017

Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) Programme to be Launched in Korea

Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University, announced today that it has signed an agreement with Lolo Educational Services Co., Korea

08-03-2017

Hebrew University is the First Israeli Academic Institute to Recognize Palestinian Test Results

This new policy will significantly increase the number of East Jerusalem Palestinians who attend the University

02-03-2017

Germany’s Order of Merit Awarded to Hebrew University President Menahem Ben-Sasson

The Order of Merit recognizes Prof. Ben-Sasson's outstanding, extensive, and personal commitment to German-Israeli relations in the field of science, and thus to the cooperation between our two nations

01-03-2017

Do We Look Like Our Names? New Research Says Yes

Study suggests that people 'live up to their name' with their facial appearance

27-02-2017

‘Smart’ bacteria remodel their genes to infect our intestines

Hebrew University researchers describe how infectious bacteria sense they are attached to intestinal cells and remodel their gene expression to exploit our cells and colonize our gut

22-02-2017

Israeli and Palestinian Researchers Cooperate to Find Risk Factors for B Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

In both groups, recreational sun exposure, black hair-dye use, a history of hospitalization for infection, and having a first-degree relative with a blood cancer were associated with B-NHL. Each group had unique risk factors too.

19-02-2017

Focus on Lord Pannick, QC, Chairman of BFHU Legal Group

Lord Pannick, QC, at Blackstone Chambers, acted for the lead claimant Gina Miller in the historic 11-justice Supreme Court case.

09-02-2017

Bacteria Sleep, Then Rapidly Evolve, to Survive Antibiotic Treatments

Hebrew University biophysicists used quantitative approaches from Physics to understand issues in Biology

09-02-2017

Pope Francis together with Scholas Global Directors meets Hebrew University leaders

Hebrew University Truman Institute together with Scholas Occurrentes Educational Organization established by Pope Francis, are developing a conference and a programme on Culture of Encounter through Education in Jerusalem

08-02-2017

MercuRemoval’s Technology Demonstrates Success in Mercury Removal from Flue Gas Emissions

Results obtained in a joint trial with Israel Electric Corporation (IEC)

06-02-2017

Science Brings Tomatoes Back Their Good Old Flavour

Hebrew University researchers are part of an international team that identified the chemical compounds and the functional genes that give a tomato its great taste

05-02-2017

Israel Prize to be Awarded to Hebrew University Prof. Yehuda Liebes

Prof. Liebes, from the Department of Jewish Thought, awarded for his work in Kaballah and Jewish myth

05-02-2017

Both push and pull drive our Galaxy’s race through space

Discovery of the Dipole Repeller confirms that both attraction and repulsion are at play in our extragalactic neighbourhood

30-01-2017

Dyslexia Linked to Shorter Memory Trace of Previous Stimuli

Hebrew University Researchers provide new insight into the brain mechanisms underlying a condition that causes reading and writing difficulties

25-01-2017

More Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Found in the Cave of Skulls

New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been uncovered by Archaeologists working on a salvage excavation in the Cave of Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel.

10-01-2017

US and Israeli researchers join forces by applying nanotechnology to cancer research

American and Israeli research teams are preparing to explore treatments for cancer using science and engineering at the molecular level, commonly known as nanotechnology.

10-01-2017

For viral predators of bacteria, sensitivity can be contagious

Bacteriophages (phages) are probably the most abundant entities in nature, often exceeding bacterial densities by an order of magnitude.

10-01-2017

Of Mice and Men: Unique Electrical Properties of Human Nerve Cells Make a Difference

Scientists present first direct evidence that human neocortical neurons have unique membrane properties that enhance signal processing

04-01-2017

Addressing War, Crime and Privacy in Cyberspace

States can no longer legislate solely within their own boundaries; project aims address war, crime and privacy in cyberspace

04-01-2017
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