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Bacteria turn threatening in tests with immune cells

When benign E. coli (yellow or blue) repeatedly face the immune cells called macrophages (red), the bacteria can develop genetic mutations to transform into life-threatening pathogens.

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In less than 30 days, nonthreatening E. coli can transform into dangerous microbes in mice.

As benign E. coli continuously faced immune system cells, the bacteria began to grow in small colonies and develop genetic mutations that could help them survive immune cells' attacks. The mutant E. coli were more resistant to being engulfed by the immune cells and were also more likely to cause disease in infected mice than the original strains, researchers report December 12 in PLOS Pathogens.

The results could help scientists develop ways to combat the disease-causing bacteria. 

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