How do bacteria change their genetic properties and how these changes spread so quickly through the population?

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trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bacteria are capable of reproducing very rapidly. If any possess a mutation that confers an advantage, it can be passed down during asexual reproduction to future generations. Antibiotics can act as "selecting agents" in the environment. Those with a resistance gene can survive and reproduce and those without this gene, will die off. Bacteria can perform conjugation, whereby two different bacteria can exchange genetic material between them, cell to cell. Usually a transposon or plasmid is needed for this process, which allows a beneficial gene to spread rapidly through the bacterial population. This is the reason that there is always a need for new and stronger antibiotics--bacteria are capable of  rapid reproduction and can exchange genes between them.

orchid101 | Student
Bacteria change their genetic properties by conjugation, transformation and transduction. In conjugation there is a transfer of genetic material between two conjugants belonging to sexually different strains. DNA transfer takes place slowly from the male cell to the female cell through the groove in the F-pilus. This transfer is energy dependent. The male cell transfers a part of its chromosome, or the entire chromosome, to tjhe female cell.In transformation the living cell picks up fragments of DNA that have been released by dead cells.Thus, the living cell gets additional DNA. In transduction, fragments of DNA are carried from one bacterial cell to another by bacterial viruses.