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Predatory Bacteria

Antibiotic resistance is increasingly becoming a challenge for treating bacterial infections. Microbiologist Simona Huwiler is researching whether predatory bacteria — that is, bacteria that eat other bacteria — can be used as a new kind of antibiotic and whether this approach also leads to the development of resistance.

Predatory bacteria such as B. bacteriovorus attack and neutralize other types of bacteria. (Image: Benjamin Güdel)

The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is an enormous challenge for the healthcare system. It is almost impossible to stop the development of antimicrobial resistance, and there are almost no new kinds of antibiotics being developed that can be used against drug-resistant bacteria. Researchers are therefore looking to nature to find alternatives. They have set their sights on the natural enemies of pathogenic bacteria such as bacteriophages – viruses that kill bacteria – as well as predatory bacteria that attack, consume and eliminate other types of bacteria. Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is one type of predatory bacteria that is of interest to researchers. It’s an ideal candidate because it likes to dine on gram-negative bacteria with antibiotic resistance. Experiments in the lab have shown that Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is capable of killing and eating many kinds of pathogenic bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Enterobacter, Proteus, Serratia, Citrobacter, Yersinia, Shigellen, Salmonella and Vibrio. This varied meal plan is an advantage compared to bacteriophages, which usually prefer to eat one specific kind of bacteria.

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