Altruism is alive and well in bacterial populations, according to new linkurl:research; in __Nature__, which found that a few altruistic bacteria help their neighbors withstand the assaults of antibiotics, even at a cost to themselves.
Researchers from Boston University found that a minority of resistant bacteria help their susceptible neighbors survive by producing and sharing high amounts of the signaling molecule indole, which guards cells against oxidative stress and helps them flush out the antibiotic. But by doing so, they have fewer resources left for their own growth. "Bacteria in a population can function as a multicellular organism of sorts -- where mutants that acquire a mutation affording resistance to the antibiotic will share a signaling molecule, indole -- helping out the more susceptible members of the population," linkurl:James Collins,; last author of the paper, said. "This is very significant work," said linkurl:Thomas Wood,; a biochemical engineer at Texas...
E. coliE. coliE. coliH.L. Lee, et al., "Bacterial charity work leads to population-wide resistance," Nature, 467:82-6, 2010.

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