Understanding and Controlling Microbial Persisters



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Our bodies have trillions more microbial cells than human cells. Although most of these microorganisms are symbiotic and harmless, and play crucial roles in our health, some of them are pathogenic and can survive asymptomatically for a long time without proliferating. Due to their transient non-growing state, these pathogens can regain the ability to initiate cell growth, controlled by a phenotypic switch that is poorly understood, and establish cell populations that can cause diseases. My research group aims to characterize the microbial phenotypes that exist in a transient, growth-inhibited state. These so-called persister cells can survive high concentrations of antibiotics due to their growth-inhibited state. Antibiotic failure is a growing concern worldwide, and persister cells significantly contribute to this problem, as they can promote the emergence of antibiotic-resistant mutants and facilitate the recurrence of microbial infections. A fundamental understanding of the molecular make-up of persister cells will facilitate the development of novel therapeutic strategies. Therefore, a major goal of my research is to study their physiology: the metabolite, RNA, and protein contents that allow them to tolerate extraordinary concentrations of drugs.



Microbial Persisters, Antibiotic Failure, Microbial phenotypes, Growth-inhibited