IISER Pune develops new model of evolution of bacterial colonies

Researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune propose a change in the way epidemiologists estimate the growth and adaptation rate of bacteria. The paper, to be published in Evolutionary Biology, poses this challenge to both theoreticians and experimentalists who are studying the growth of asexual populations subject to periodic bottlenecks.Bacteria enter the body of a host organism and multiply into billions. But the population is not steadily growing within the body. There are periodic instances, known as bottlenecks, when they are purged in huge numbers. This could be, for example, when the host sneezes or defecates. On these occasions the bacteria gets into the body of a second host and spreads there. So the number of bacteria in the first host decreases considerably at the time of bottlenecks. In performing calculations, it is of interest to know which number to take as the estimate of population size of the bacteria, as this will also decide how they grow and proliferate. This size is related to and directly affects the extent or rate of adaptation, which is a measure of how much a trait has changed compared to the ancestor. The rate or extent of adaptation is ultimately the quantity that researchers seek to estimate or measure.

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