Researchers identify how bacterium that causes tuberculosis evolves rapidly

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

June 22, 2022 -- A new study has identified how the bacterium that causes tuberculosis can evolve rapidly in response to new environments, providing insights into how Mycobacterium tuberculosis grows to resist antibiotics with the potential for developing more effective treatments.

Researchers evolved populations of M. tuberculosis in the lab and discovered that it could form thick biofilms due to mutations in genetic regions that cause multiple changes to happen simultaneously. They found that each strain was able to adapt rapidly to environmental pressure, with the growth of a thicker and more robust biofilm.

"Bacteria are prone to growing as biofilms in many contexts, including the infection of humans and other hosts, and during colonization of natural and built environments," said senior author Caitlin Pepperell, principal investigator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"In a medical context, the insights gained from our work could be used to explore potential new antibiotics that are better able to attack bacteria that grow this way," Pepperell said.

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