Unhealthy Change: Diversity in a bacterial colony can prolong infections

10:33am, November 17, 2004

Researchers have long known that diversification strengthens large groups, from the stocks in a winning portfolio to the wildflowers in a field. New findings suggest that the same idea applies to bacterial communities and may explain why some infections are notoriously difficult to treat.

Many species of bacteria that form lump-shaped colonies can also live as biofilms, large clusters of organisms encased in a self-produced slime. Biofilms frequently capitalize on vulnerable sites in people, such as eyes irritated by contact lenses or open wounds, to cause chronic infections that are tough to eradicate.

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