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Adapting to clogged airways makes common pathogen resist powerful drugs
Date:2/9/2010

c fibrosis secretions contain a lot of nitrates and amino acids, which Pseudomonas can use to grow.

Inside mucus plugs oxygen levels are low. Some Pseudomonas strains can live in this oxygen-poor, nutrient-rich environment. Hoffman and his team found that a mutation that occurs commonly in Pseudomonas from cystic fibrosis patients allows the pathogen to grow better in the nutrient environment in cystic fibrosis secretions. This particular mutation inactivates a gene named lasR. Pseudomonas with this mutation apparently undergo a metabolic shift: consuming less oxygen while utilizing nitrate more efficiently. lasR mutant bacteria also can handle oxidative stress resulting from an imbalance of damaging substances called free radicals forming faster than they can be detoxified.

One source of oxidative stress encountered by Pseudomonas is the antibiotic treatment that is frequently given to people who have cystic fibrosis. Antibiotics like ciprofloxacin and tobramycin kill bacteria partly by inducing the overproduction of free radicals and causing oxidative stress. Hoffman and his team found that, because these mutant microbes are resistant to oxidative stress, they were relatively resistant to these antibiotics when grown in conditions that were like cystic fibrosis mucus.

"We learned that simply by adapting to the conditions inside the airways of cystic fibrosis patients, mutated Pseudomonas can withstand the effects of ciprofloxacin and tobramycin," Hoffman said. They did not need any previous exposure to these antibiotics to reduce their susceptibility.

Hoffman and his team suspect that Pseudomonas is not the only microbe that can do this. Some of the characteristics conferred by the mutation in Pseudomonas are also exhibited in other microbes found in chronic lung infections, such as tuberculosis or the fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans, Hoffman noted. M
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Contact: Leila Gray
leilag@u.washington.edu
206-685-0381
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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