Infectious bacteria that are down but not quite dead yet may be more dangerous than previously thought. Even as one antibiotic causes the bacteria to go dormant, the microbes may more easily develop resistance to another drug, according to new research.
Deadly Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that could tolerate one type of antibiotic developed resistance to a second antibiotic nearly three times faster than fully susceptible bacteria did, researchers report in the Jan. 10 Science. The findings could suggest why drug cocktails used to knock out infections quickly sometimes fail, and may eventually lead to changes in the way antibiotics are prescribed in certain situations.
[Biophysicist Nathalie] Balaban thinks it might be useful to start patients on multidrug cocktails immediately to head off both tolerance and resistance. She and colleagues are working with doctors at hospitals to develop guidelines for giving antibiotics that take both tolerance and a patient’s immune system into account.
The more researchers know about the genes and mechanisms involved in tolerance, the better they can design tests for tolerant bacteria and ways to wake the organisms up and kill them.
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