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From Friend to Foe: How Benign Bacteria Evolve Into Virulent Pathogens

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Bacteria can evolve rapidly to adapt to environmental change. When the "environment" is the immune response of an infected host, this evolution can turn harmless bacteria into life-threatening pathogens. A study published on December 12 in PLOS Pathogens provides insight into how this happens.

Isabel Gordo and colleagues from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia in Oeira, Portugal, have for the first time devised an experimental system to observe and study the evolution of bacteria in response to encounters with cells of the mammalian immune system. They found that in less than 500 bacterial generations (or 30 days), the bacteria became more resistant to being killed by immune cells and acquired the ability to cause disease in mice.

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