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Scientists have discovered that bacteria can create something like memories about when to form strategies that can cause dangerous infections in people, such as resistance to antibiotics and bacterial swarms when millions of bacteria come together on a single surface. The discovery—which has potential applications for preventing and combatting bacterial infections and addressing antibiotic-resistant bacteria—relates to a common chemical element bacterial cells can use to form and pass along these memories to their progeny over later generations.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin found that E. coli bacteria use iron levels as a way to store information about different behaviors that can then be activated in response to certain stimuli.