Bacteria's smart tactics revealed

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 11, 2014

Bacteria have the ability to predict when people will take antibiotics and learn to dodge them, Israeli researchers have found.

The discovery comes as a UK government report warned this week that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could spark a return "to the dark ages of medicine".

Hebrew University scientists observed bacteria getting used to a three-hour dosage of antibiotics, and learning to go dormant for that period in order to survive. They saw bacteria developing this resistance after just 10 days of monitoring.

According to physicist Nathalie Balaban, who conducted the study in conjunction with American universities Harvard and MIT, the study was the first to show that bacteria have a biological timer. "As the study went on, more bacteria survived as they got a mutation which rejected the timing of antibiotic treatment," she said.

Dr Balaban claimed that the research, which was published in the journal Nature, may lead to new strategies for increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics, such as varying dosage schedules to "trick" bacteria.

Last updated: 6:45am, July 11 2014