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Sophisticated Battlefield Tactics of Bacteria Revealed in New Study

NEW insights into the strategies bacteria use to compete with one another have been revealed by researchers from the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. This enhanced knowledge of how different strains of bacteria contest should help scientists understand how, where, and why bacteria spread in the human body.

Sophisticated Strategies
In the study, the team studied pairs of Escherichia coli strains that were engineered to fluoresce green so that their battles could be followed in real time. Each strain would attempt to defeat its opponent by using a particular toxin. However, it was discovered that different strains had different styles of attack; some hyper-aggressive and others much more passive.

Additionally, certain strains were even capable of warning the cells in the rest of the colony when they detected an attack from an incoming toxin, enabling a highly sophisticated co-ordinated response. These behaviours were far more advanced and complex than researchers had previously thought.

Important New Information
The findings could provide vital insights into how bacteria are spread in the human body, especially in the gut microbiome, which contains vast numbers of bacteria. This could have a major impact on the way bacterial infections are treated in the future.

Senior author Kevin Foster, University of Oxford, commented: “We know from other studies that toxins are important for whether or not a particular strain will establish in a community. But understanding how bacteria release toxins and outcompete others is very important for understanding the spread of infection.”

Further Research
To build on these findings, the team are now conducting a new study to discover how bacteria use toxins to provoke their opponents, misdirecting aggression.

James Coker, Reporter

For the source and further information about the study, click here.