Life

A Major Clue To The Rise Of Superbugs Has Been Living In Our Mouths All Along

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The human body is home to literally billions of tiny creatures, and medical science is still documenting them. Some of these microscopic characters are neat, some of them are gross, and all of them offer fascinating insights into how our bodies function. But one of them, that we’ve just discovered, might be an important clue to thwarting everything from cystic fibrosis to gum disease.

Bdellovibrio is a bacterium that infects other bacteria, and in fact it’s parasitic. It infects its bacterial host and eventually rips holes in it, collapsing the bacterium. More than that, though, it apparently manages to make these microbes nastier. For example, it was first found on Actinomyces odontolyticus, which is a major cause of gum disease, and higher concentrations of Bdellovibrio DNA have been found in gum disease sufferers. It also appears to help the bacterium avoid macrophages that eat it. Nor is gum disease the only ailment that Bdellovibrio might be tied to. Researchers also found high concentrations of its DNA in the saliva of cystic fibrosis sufferers, although what tie it might have to that disease remains unclear.

Most interesting, though, is that Bdellovibrio may help bacteria resist antibiotics. Infection with Bdellovibrio appears to grant resistance to streptomycin, a common antibiotic. More importantly, however, is that this little monster is probably not unique. It’s likely there are entire swarms of new kinds of minibacteria that may be affecting the infectiousness and severity of a host of diseases. Killing them might be the key to preventing antibiotic resistance… at least, if we can find them first.

(Via New Scientist)

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