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Lucky bacteria strike it rich during formation of treatment-resistant colonies
Date:5/8/2013

In biology, we often think of natural selection and survival of the fittest. What about survival of the luckiest?

Like pioneers in search of a better life, bacteria on a surface wander around and often organize into highly resilient communities, known as biofilms. It turns out that a lucky few bacteria become the elite cells that start the colonies, and they organize in a rich-get-richer pattern similar to the distribution of wealth in the U.S. economy, according to a new study by researchers at UCLA, Northwestern University and the University of Washington.

The study, to be published online May 8 in the journal Nature, is the first to identify the strategy by which bacteria form initial colonies in biofilms. The research may have significant implications for battling stubborn bacterial infections that do not respond to powerful drugs, as well as for other applications.

Biofilms are colonies of bacteria that form on surfaces, including human tissue. Bacteria in biofilms change their gene expression patterns and are far more resistant to antibiotics and the body's immune defenses than individual, free-swimming bacteria, because they mass together and surround themselves with a matrix of proteins, DNA and sugars. This makes seemingly routine infections potentially deadly.

Gerard Wong, a professor in the UCLA bioengineering and chemistry departments; Erik Luijten, an associate professor of applied mathematics and of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University; and Matthew R. Parsek, a professor of microbiology at the University of Washington, led a team of researchers who elucidated the early formation of biofilms by using algorithms to track the development of different strains of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa and by conducting computer simulations to map the movements. P. aeruginosa can cause lethal, difficult-to-treat infections. Examples include infections found in cystic fibrosis
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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