Growth patterns reveal E. coli’s path to becoming superbugs
Harvard Medical School
For bacteria, practice makes perfect: Adjusting to ever higher levels of antibiotics preps them to morph into super resistant strains, and scientists can now watch it happen. A new device — a huge petri dish coated with different concentrations of antibiotics — makes this normally hidden process visible, microbiologist Michael Baym and colleagues report in the Sept. 9 Science. The setup gives a step-by-step picture of how garden-variety microbes become antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
“As someone who’s studied evolutionary biology for a long time, I think it has a real wow factor,” says Sam Brown, a microbiologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta who wasn’t involved in the study. The bacteria are “climbing this impossible mountain of antibiotics.”
Scientists often study microbial