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Hints of altruism among bacteria

E. coli defend against antibiotics with a little help from their friends

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1:47pm, September 1, 2010

When it comes to fighting antibiotics, E. coli bacteria have each other’s backs.

Just a few drug-resistant bacteria can release a protective substance that makes a whole population resilient to drugs, a new study in the Sept. 2 Nature shows. The findings may lead to new ways of combating drug-resistant germs in humans.

“Antibiotic resistance is a global health issue and we want to understand how and why bacteria become resistant to a particular antibiotic,” says biophysicist Hyun Youk of MIT.

It turns out that when E. coli, a common gut microbe that occasionally causes illness, becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it releases a molecule call

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