Bacteria Take Hold with a One-Two Punch

"Persister" cells are the key to bacteria's stronghold

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists have discovered a virtually unstoppable form of bacteria cell that contributes to chronic infections, but its overall function and origin are still shrouded in mystery.

Bacteria use many tricks to evade detection and elimination, and researchers in Belgium have pinpointed two important factors in bacterial survival.

Two factors are at play when bacteria invade the body: genetic resistance to antibiotics and "persistence." Genetic resistance of bacteria to antibiotics evolves from overuse or misuse of antibiotics, which acts as a sort of "natural selection" processes that builds superbugs, or bacteria that are immune to antibiotics.

But also at play are "persister" cells, types of bacteria resistant to all antibiotics. They can survive antibiotic exposure without needing to develop genetic resistance. These bacterial cells are highly unstoppable but also very mysterious. Scientists still do not fully understand the mechanics of this persister cell.

Persister cells are produced far less than normal bacteria when in the body but are stronger and nearly impossible to destroy with antibiotics. It is believed that they are the reason bacterial infections take so long to treat and why it is rarely possible to completely remove infection from a patient.

Further research is being done in order to possible target these persister cells and obstruct their important role in bacterial infections along with genetic antibiotic resistance.

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Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 7, 2011