Bacterial competition in situations of food scarcity prevents survival of mutants

Publicado em 10 março 2021

A study conducted by researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil shows that competition for nutrients and lack of cooperation among bacteria of the species Escherichia coli in the same population and in situations of food scarcity prevent mutants that are better adapted to the environment from flourishing, except those that organize in small groups. The phenomenon masks the emergence of novel bacterial variants, making the mutation rate seem lower than it is in fact.

Mutants constantly emerge and accumulate from one generation to the next. Mutation frequency determines the evolution of a given species. Understanding the origin of mutations is also important to explain biological processes. In the case of bacteria, for example, it helps explain the potential evolutionary divergence of a pathogen in an epidemic or resistance to antibiotics.

In an article on the study published in the journal BMC Biology, the researchers compare what happens in colonies of E. coli with the "tragedy of the commons", a term used by economists as well as ecologists to refer to the problems that occur when individuals pursue …

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