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Bacteria, insects join forces against pesticide

Microbes in gut, rather than genetic changes, allow insects to develop chemical resistance

Insects and microbes have teamed up against a pesticide commonly sprayed on crops. In lab tests, swallowing a bellyful of certain bacteria protected bugs from the toxic chemical.

This detoxifying diet is the first example of a symbiotic relationship that provides insecticide resistance, scientists report online April 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Mechanisms of insecticide resistance have been thought to be encoded by the insect genomes themselves,” says Yoshitomo Kikuchi, a microbiologist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Hokkaido, Japan. “Our findings overturn the common sense.”

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