Populations of Escherichia coli grown in the lab quickly evolve tolerance when exposed to repeated treatments with the antibiotic ampicillin, according to a study published today (June 25) in Nature. Specifically, the bacteria evolved to stay in a dormant “lag” phase for just longer than three-, five-, or eight-hour-long treatment courses, before waking up and growing overnight until the next round of treatment began.
“I was very surprised that the bacteria are able to modify their lag time just as much as they need to,” said microbiologist Tom Coenye of the Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Microbiology (LPM) at Gent University in Belgium, who was not involved in the research.
Medical doctors have noted the same—the way bacteria manage clever strategies for hiding in the human body, via convenient dormancy.
They don’t think, but something seems to be doing their thinking for them. Not natural selection acting on random mutation because they evidently choose to avoid it whenever possible. That is, they avoid direct conflict with antibiotics, whether natural or human-directed.
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