In a joint collaboration, researchers from Denmark and Switzerland have shown that bacteria produce a specific stress molecule, divide more slowly, and thus save energy when they are exposed to antibiotics.

The new knowledge is expected to form the basis for development of a new type of antibiotics.

This fundamental principle is particularly prominent in the world of microorganisms, where free-living bacteria live in a constant fight to be the most well adapted and thus those who divide fastest in any given natural habitat.

This amazing adaptability of bacteria is a contributing factor to the severity of infectious diseases in humans, including tuberculosis and severe urinary tract infection, for which the disease often resurfaces after treatment has ended.

In a new research paper, just published in the high-impact journal Molecular Cell, researchers from Aarhus University have collaborated with experts from the University of Copenhagen and the technical university ETH Zürich in Switzerland and taken a close look at how bacteria handle this difficult balancing act.

The results show that bacteria very quickly reduce their rate of cell division when exposed to antibiotics in order to maintain the highest possible tolerance, but quickly start growing again when the substances are removed and fitness is the most important factor.

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