These bacteria can live without a cell wall and can therefore absorb and exchange DNA

About the episode

We increasingly understand how bacteria hide in clever ways from our immune system and from medications. For her PhD, a researcher in Leiden investigated one of the tricks we don’t yet fully understand.

She studied harmless soil bacteria that can live without a cell wall and absorb DNA from their environment. If disease-causing bacteria in our bodies do this too, it will make them more dangerous. They can hide better without a cell wall, and uptake and passage of DNA can provide resistance.

The soil bacteria studied are not found in our bodies, but there are plenty of places — think wastewater treatment plants — where many different types of bacteria live together. At least some of them can perform this trick. How does this affect the spread of diseases and the development of resistance?

In this audio you can hear Renée Kapteijn. She did her research at the Leiden Institute of Biology. Read more about the publication that previously appeared in Nature based on her work here: Bacteria that do not have a cell wall absorb DNA from the environment Part of the larger one Project Vital Goal.

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Megan Vasquez

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