A2: Microbes in the News!

“Bacteria develop tougher membranes to resist antibiotics, report into superbugs finds” by Sarah Newey from The Telegraph on Feb. 19th, 2019.


Summary: Using a nearly $1 million microscope, researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that as bacteria become more and more antibiotic-resistant, their membranes become tougher and more difficult to penetrate. Furthermore, these same bacteria had a less negative charge, which decreases the attraction between them and positively-charged antibiotics. With these deadly defenses in mind, the World Health Organization says that nearly 10 million people will die per year from these superbugs  in the year 2050. 10 million per year.

Connections:  We know that bacteria have extremely diverse physiologies and structures. Bacteria can be Gram + or Gram -, depending on the components of their cell wall. Below the wall is the cell membrane, which is relatively similar among most taxa. Understanding how certain antibiotics interact with cell walls and cell membranes of superbugs is a task that has yet to be solved, however, this study affords us a chance to hopefully make some progress.

Critical Analysis: I thought the article was well written and succinct. As someone who has some knwoledge about microbes, it was slightly misleading. It would have been nice to know how the cell membranes are becoming tougher or what molecules are contributing to antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, because this article is from Britain, I have some concerns whether when they say cell membrane, the author is referring to both the wall and the membrane, just the wall, or possibly just the membrane.

Scientifically speaking, the article was aimed at a general audience and lacked the scientific jargon that I was seeking. I wish it would have gone into more depth on the actual mechanisms or structures of these superbug membranes since that’s what the title conveys.

Question: The article explained that as bacteria become more antibiotic resistance, their membranes become tougher and more difficult to penetrate. How does this change the structure, composition, and function of the cell membrane?

1 Comment for “A2: Microbes in the News!”



I too would have liked more scientific information. I would like to know if the new tougher membranes come with new proteins or other identifying markers that could be used as targets for antibiotic development. There is research on developing antibiotics from insects and bugs that have natural parasitic and bacterial defenses, I would be interested to see how these tougher membranes hold up to those.

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