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Multidrug Tolerance of Biofilms and Persister Cells

Summary: Multidrug Tolerance of Biofilms
and Persister Cells
K. Lewis
Abstract Bacterial populations produce a small number of dormant persister cells
that exhibit multidrug tolerance. All resistance mechanisms do essentially the same
thing: prevent the antibiotic from hitting a target. By contrast, tolerance apparently
works by shutting down the targets. Bactericidal antibiotics kill bacteria by cor-
rupting their targets, rather than merely inhibiting them. Shutting down the targets
then protects from killing. The number of persisters in a growing population of
bacteria rises at mid-log and reaches a maximum of approximately 1% at stationary
state. Similarly, slow-growing biofilms produce substantial numbers of persisters.
The ability of a biofilm to limit the access of the immune system components,
and the ability of persisters to sustain an antibiotic attack could then account for
the recalcitrance of such infections in vivo and for their relapsing nature. Isolation
of Escherichia coli persisters by lysing a population or by sorting GFP-expressing
cells with diminished translation allowed to obtain a gene expression profile.
K. Lewis
Antimicrobial Discovery Center and Department of Biology, Northeastern University,
360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, 02459 USA


Source: Ayers, Joseph - Marine Science Center & Department of Biology, Northeastern University


Collections: Engineering