Bacterial arms race

Microbiologists have managed to ‘force’ bacteria to create a new antibiotic in a test-tube-based arms race.

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Genetic studies of a bacteria species called Rhodococcus, normally found in soil, revealed large amounts of latent (or potential) proteins coded for in its genome. Some of these sequences displayed an intriguing similarity to existing chemicals, including pigments and toxins. However, the bacteria weren’t expressing these products…

So they were put into a hostile situation – a petri dish with a competing bacterial species. The rhodococcus responded by expressing a latent antibiotic and wiping out the competition!

An excellent example of the scientific method: careful observation and creative testing which achieves a serendipitous outcome.

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