Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Double Agents
02 January 2016

Double Agents

It’s far from certain that we can win the war against drug-resistant superbugs by developing more antibiotics – but another line of defence could be the recruitment of 'friendly bacteria' to our side. In a laboratory experiment, scientists noticed that some mice exposed to harmful bacteria were more resistant than others to muscle wasting, a common and dangerous effect of serious infection. The resistant mice were found to have friendly bacteria, a kind of Escherichia coli (E. coli), in their gut, which migrated to fat tissue during infection and stimulated production of a growth hormone called IGF-1. This helped to maintain healthy muscle, boosting the animal’s ability to survive. When oral doses of E. coli were given to other mice, they developed resistance to muscle wasting during potentially lethal infections by Salmonella typhimurium (pictured right) and Burkholderia thailandensis (left). Now, the hunt is on for similar ‘double agent’ bacteria in humans.

Written by Mick Warwicker

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.