Genes & Cells

A boost for tired antibiotics, plus a fishy mom’s mucus and high-gravity microbes in this week’s news

One-two punch for bacteria Old standby antibiotics that don’t work alone might still slay drug-resistant microbes if the beasties are weakened with other meds. Combinations of antibiotics are known to yield germ-fighting power, but researchers from Canada and Scotland were surprised to learn that dosing microbes with drugs designed for ills such as cancer, irritable bowl syndrome and alcoholism allowed antibiotics to move in for the kill. Some combinations wiped out drug-resistant strains of Pseudomonas , Staphylococcus and E. coli , the team reports online April 24 in Nature Chemical Biology . The approach offers a new means for treating certain infections and could help limit drug resistance. — Rachel Ehrenberg Mom’s mucus recipe They don’t change diapers, but some mama fish change up their mucus during the weeks that young fish are using mom’s mouth as a nursery. A new analysis comparing female tilapia with and without mouth broods finds cranked-up production of 22 proteins among fish supporting youngsters within their jaws. As many a parent might guess, the majority of these proteins help mom’s body cope with stress, scientists from Malaysia report online April 20 in PLoS ONE . — Rachel Ehrenberg High-gravity microbes Think beyond life on other planets. Bacteria may be able to live on cool brown dwarf stars, researchers in Japan and Sweden say. A type of bacteria called Paracoccus denitrificans not only withstood, but thrived in, simulated gravity 403,627 times greater than Earth’s, the researchers reported online April 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Brown dwarf stars have gravitational fields about 10 to 100 times stronger than Earth’s. E. coli and other bacteria were also able to grow in high-gravity conditions, but baker’s yeast didn’t fare as well. Yeast cell growth may be inhibited because it has internal organelles that are squished by high gravity. — Tina Hesman Saey

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