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E. coli's mutation rate linked to cells' crosstalk

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics (shown) may develop the mutations to resist antibiotics more quickly when they live in a small crowd than when they live in larger groups, a new study suggests.

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When E. coli cells aren't hanging out in a crowd, the rate at which their genes mutate to resist the antibiotic rifampicin increases up to threefold. The finding shows that the microbes' ability to develop antibiotic resistance depends on a gene that helps the bacterial cells communicate. Manipulating this type of crosstalk among bacterial cells may provide a way to slow the pervasive emergence of antibiotic resistance, researchers suggest April 29 in Nature Communications.

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