E coli is “hard-wired for survival” according to new research findings from scientists at the University of Edinburgh.
The E coli bug, which is extremely common and a constant issue for the farming industry, has been found to be “able to recover continually from potentially fatal harm to its genetic material, without slowing down the rate at which it grows”.
The Edinburgh researchers say their discovery helps explain why bacteria are so hard to kill and why they are so widespread.
The team studied how E coli responded when its DNA strands were deliberately broken as it tried to carry out its everyday function of dividing and reproducing. They were surprised to find that it was able to use a combination of methods to survive repeated DNA damage, having an in-built emergency response to ensure that DNA damage is quickly repaired.
“In addition, it carries out overlapping rounds of DNA replication, which enables its cells to continue to divide and reproduce,” they said. “This ensures E coli keeps multiplying as it recovers.”