Recent discovery by scientists has led to new and effective ways to treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections.
They found that genetic resistance to antibiotics is not the only trick bacteria use to resist eradication- they also have a second defense strategy known as persistence that can kick in.
The researchers demonstrated for the first time that interplay occurs between the two mechanisms to aid bacterial survival.
'Persister' bacterial cells are temporarily hyper-resistant to all antibiotics at once. They are able to survive lethal levels of antibiotics without being genetically resistant to the drug.
These cells are a significant cause of treatment failure yet the mechanism behind the persistence phenomenon is still unclear.
Scientists from Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium found that the number of persister cells isolated from Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections decreases when the bacterial population shows genetic resistance to the antibiotic fosfomycin.
P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen and a significant cause of hospital-acquired infections. It can cause fatal infections in people suffering from cystic fibrosis.
The bacterium is notorious for its ability to develop resistance against commonly-used antibiotics and treatment failure is common.
Professor Jan Michiels who led the study explained that persister cells are a major contributor to treatment failure.
The study appeared in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.