Bad News: Bacteria Can Change Shape to Avoid Antibiotics

Scientists have found that certain strains of bacteria can change shape inside the human body to avoid being targeted by antibiotics.

Shape-Shifting Bacteria / Image: Sirirat/Shutterstock
Shape-Shifting Bacteria / Image: Sirirat/Shutterstock

There’s no question that antibiotics save lives, but widespread use has also contributed to the generation of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria has evolved to avoid antibiotics by pumping them out, breaking them down, or even halting growth and division to hide from the immune system. A recent article from The Conversation noted a newly discovered method in which the bacteria actually changes shape inside the body to avoid antibiotic attack, a process that requires no genetic change.

Most bacteria are surrounded by cell walls, which human cells don’t have, that make them easily recognized and targeted as foreign by the immune system. However, certain bacteria can survive without a cell wall, making them nearly invisible to the immune system and therefore completely resistant to all antibiotics that specifically target cell walls.

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