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Bug vs. Bug

May 28, 2015

Benign gut bacteria may provide a novel response to antibiotic-resistant pathogens.



Fighting bacteria with bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The microbes that live in our gut protect us against disease-causing pathogens by taking up real estate and other resources inside us, so that invading microbes can’t settle in. Now Harvard microbiologist Michael Gilmore and his colleagues report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that one gut-dwelling microbe takes a more active role in protecting us: it produces a compound that kills its disease-causing, antibiotic-resistant cousin. Gilmore says it’s a molecule the bacteria use to communicate—but in disease-causing bacteria, it’s somehow interpreted to mean “drop dead.”

MICHAEL GILMORE (Harvard Medical School):

They’re basically using what otherwise is a common type of language to convince this drug resistant strain to kill itself.


The research could eventually lead to new antibiotics. In the short term, it highlights the importance of keeping our resident bacteria healthy. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.