The plasmids force their hosts to lay down their arms

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Bacteria evolve drug-resistance in the usual way, but they also spread genes for drug-resistance horizontally, through plasmids:

As a self-defense mechanism, Acinetobacter kills other bacteria that get too close, which doesn’t help the plasmids reproduce. So, the plasmids force their hosts to lay down their arms, allowing them to then pass copies of themselves into the neighboring bacteria.

In response, the researchers mutated the plasmids so they couldn’t stop the bacteria from defending itself. In another test, they mutated the Acinetobacter itself so its defenses couldn’t be lowered, and in both cases the outcome was the same. The plasmids — and by extension, antibiotic resistance — were unable to spread.


  1. Alrenous says:

    Some severe Journalism happening here.

    Acinetobacter kills bacteria so they can’t give Acinetobacter plasmids. The plasmids, which we can’t give to acinetobacter, stop acinetobacter from killing the host before it’s close enough to give acinetobacter the plasmids.

    We adjusted the plasmid we can’t give to acinetobactter to stop it from killing the host it can’t receive it from, so now it’s killing the host it was already killing.

    Remember, Higgs bosons are responsible for mass per se, and science journalists are responsible for crimes against science.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    Once again, medical people are unaware of natural selection. Eventually, a mutation arises that allows living organisms to adapt to new selection pressures. One can safely predict that this new technique will fail, too.

    There is a great deal of talk about overuse of antibiotics in general. Even lowly general practitioners at walk-in clinics now mouth the mantra. But any use of antibiotics that is clinically effective eventually selects for resistant mutations. The only way to prevent this is to stop using the antibiotic. The correct strategy is to have a large array of antibiotics, some of which are held back. Older ones, like penicillin, should be removed from the market until the mutants die off, which they will.

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