How Bacteria Become Infectious
File this one under weird but true: When a community of bacteria forms on a marine sponge, the microorganisms can make "a collective decision" to grow an appendage called a flagellum and swim away. What does this bizarre bit of information have to do with you and your health? The team of scientists who discovered the phenomenon say the finding could lead to an understanding of how to break up harmful bacterial "biofilms," such as plaque on teeth or the films that develop on implanted medical devices such as artificial heart valves.
The research paper was published in the journal Molecular Microbiology. A release from the University of Maryland notes that bacteria "have ways of communicating with each other . . . Just like in a business meeting, once enough bacteria gather in one place—or a quorum is met—a decision about their collective behavior can be made. This 'quorum sensing' is responsible for a number of cellular processes."
The release quotes co-author Russell T. Hill, PhD. as saying "Anything we can discover about this bacterial communication could be really important in understanding how bacteria become pathogenic in humans or how they form film on teeth or internal medical devices. Understanding that process may help in the future for controlling biofilms."