Copper kills Escherichia coli persister cells

Paula Maria Moreira Martins, Ting Gong, Alessandra A. de Souza, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Due to their reduced metabolism, persister cells can survive most antimicrobial treatments, which usually rely on corrupting active biochemical pathways. Therefore, molecules that kill bacterial persisters should function in a metabolism-independent manner. Some anti-persister compounds have been found previously, such as the DNA-crosslinkers mitomycin C and cisplatin, but more effective and lower cost alternatives are needed. Copper alloys have been used since ancient times due to their antimicrobial properties, and they are still used in agriculture to control plant bacterial diseases. By stopping transcription with rifampicin and by treating with ampicillin to remove non-persister cells, we created a population that consists solely of Escherichia coli persister cells. Using this population of persister cells, we demonstrate that cupric compounds kill E. coli persister cells. Hence, copper ions may be used in controlling the spread of important bacterial strains that withstand treatment with conventional antimicrobials by forming persister cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number506
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology


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