Staphylococcus aureus Sharing Nutrients to Increase Virulence during Infection


Staff member
An interesting study performed at the Vanderbilt University demonstrated the ability of bacteria, in this case Staphylococcus aureus, to work together in a mixed population, collectively sharing nutrients to resist drugs like antibiotics.

There are many ways bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, and one way is by changing the way they generate energy and becoming “small colony variants”, which are small and weak. The question has always been - how do bacteria that are less fit and grow poorly in the laboratory cause such persistent infections in humans?

The current studies support the notion that antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, including methicillin-resistant (MRSA) strains, can exchange nutrients with each other and even with other bacterial species, including the “normal” microbes of the microbiome, to increase their virulence during an infection. There are a bunch of organisms that became resistant in different ways and that can exchange the molecules they’re each individually missing.

The findings surprised scientists. They show that these antibiotic-resistant infections are not what was originally thought – they’re not a single strain of bacteria with a single lesion leading to the small colony variant phenotype. Instead, they’re a mixed population of organisms that are sharing nutrients collectively for the benefit of the colony.

Preventing this nutrient exchange between microorganisms may offer new therapeutic strategies against these antibiotic-resistant organisms.


- Chris