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Potential breakthrough in antibiotics resistance research

22 December 2017 10:35

Resistance to antibiotics has been called one of today's most serious health challenges

Resistance to antibiotics has been called one of today's most serious health challenges

Dormant cells that are not susceptible to antibiotic treatment could help doctors understand antibiotic resistance, a study suggests.

According to the research, "sleeper cells" are those that resemble cells that have been killed by antibiotics and lie dormant, yet are viable.

The study finds they make up 1.3% of bacteria cells that can survive treatment with the antibiotic ampicillin.

Because they can reawaken at any time, they are potentially dangerous as they can re-infect humans and animals.

Persister cells

Sleeper cells have similar features to persister cells, those that are antibiotic resistant and account for one third of cells left behind following a course of antibiotics.

The study of bacteria has been conducted at the University of Exeter.

Dr Stefano Pagliara, a biophysicist at the university, calls the cells that can survive antibiotics "one of the serious health challenges of our age".

He continued: "The cells we identified elude antibiotic treatment and pose a serious threat to human health.

"In fact, unlike persister cells which quickly resume growth after the antibiotic course ends, 'sleeper cells' remain non-growing for prolonged periods of time, and elude detection using traditional methods."

Better understanding

This research could help scientists understand the special properties of both "sleeper" and persister cells.

"Our research should make it easier to develop biomarkers to isolate these cells and open up new ways to map the biochemical make-up of bacteria that can escape antibiotics, so we can find ways of targeting them effectively," added Dr Pagliara.

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