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Scientists Identify Cause of Antibiotic Resistance

The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development.  Scientists have now confirmed for the first time that bacteria can change form to avoid being detected by antibiotics in the human body.

Researchers have demonstrated that a bacteria can lose its cell wall (the common target of many groups of antibiotics) in a process known as “L-form switching.”  The researchers say “Imagine that the wall is like the bacteria wearing a high-visibility jacket. This gives them a regular shape (for example a rod or a sphere), making them strong and protects them but it also makes them highly visible - particularly to human immune system and antibiotics.  “What we have seen is that in the presence of antibiotics, the bacteria are able to change from a highly regular walled form to a completely random, cell wall-deficient L-form state- in effect, shedding the yellow jacket and hiding it inside themselves,” in this form the body can’t easily recognize the bacteria so doesn’t attack them - and neither do antibiotics.”  In this L-form the bacteria are flimsy and weaker but some survive, hiding inside the body.

The research also captured on video for the first time, L-form bacteria re-forming a cell wall after the antibiotic had gone - taking just 5 hours. 

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