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A potential new target to thwart antibiotic resistance

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Viruses in gut confer antibiotic resistance to bacteria. Bacteria in the gut that are under attack by antibiotics have allies no one had anticipated, a team of Wyss Institute scientists has found. Gut viruses that usually commandeer the bacteria, it turns out, enable them to survive the antibiotic onslaught, most likely by handing them genes that help them withstand the drug.

What's more, the gut viruses, called bacteriophage or simply phage, deliver genes that help the bacteria to survive not just the antibiotic they've been exposed to, but other types of antibiotics as well, the scientists reported online June 9 in Nature. That suggests that phages in the gut may be partly responsible for the emergence of dangerous superbugs that withstand multiple antibiotics, and that drug targeting of phages could offer a potential new path to mitigate development of antibiotic resistance.

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