Bacterial cooperation as a target for anti-infectious therapy

July 13, 2005

Resistance to antibiotics is spreading dangerously among bacteria, some of them being resistant to all known medicine. To face this challenge, a radically novel line of attack consists in disorganizing infections, instead of killing individual bacteria. Just like the coordinated activity of our cells is the basis of the proper functioning of our body, the coordinated activity of bacteria is often the basis of infections' efficiency, and certain drugs have been shown experimentally to impede this coordination. In a paper recently published in Ecology Letters, André and Godelle build a mathematical model showing that one of the most interesting advantages of these drugs is that the evolution of bacterial resistance would be orders of magnitude slower than in the case of antibiotics. The authors suggest an interesting interpretation. When a drug targets global properties of infections, the units of organization potentially resisting that drug are precisely the infections, and not the bacteria. In consequence, instead of facing billions of microscopic individuals the drug is only facing a reduced number of larger organisms (infections) with slower evolutionary rate.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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