UC San Diego Researchers Discover How Bacteria Communicate With Each Other Using Chemical And Electrical Signals


Previous studies had shown that bacteria can communicate with each other. This urged researchers to find out how the communication takes place. The answer to the question was discovered by biologists at the University of California San Diego. They did this by observing a biofilm, an area where different kinds of microbes live.

Jintao Liu, one of the researchers, observed how the bacteria in a biofilm protect the colony from collapsing. He noticed that after the colony expanded from the center, the activity stopped for a few hours. Then, it resumed again.

Jintao Liu discovered that the bacteria from the outer part stopped expanding so that those inside would not die. The bacteria stopped the activity when those at the inner part signaled that they are hungry. The nutrients are now fed to the bacteria inside the biofilm, according to B2C. Bacteria of the same species contact each other by exchanging potassium ions. This is their way of asking for help or of instructing each other.

Bacteria that belong to different species use another way of talking. They use electrical signals. The signals are long range so that they could reach bacteria from others biofilms. These germs control other bacteria from a distance and may recruit other species to protect them. A colony that is under attack by antibiotics recruits other species that are resistant to the antibiotic. This is one reason why some persons experience long and recurring illnesses, according to UC San Diego.

Results of the study had great impact to fighting against diseases caused by bacteria. The signals can be jammed so that the bacteria cannot recruit others to protect them from antibiotics. The same applies to different kinds of bacteria that inhabit some parts of the body. By breaking their communication, they will not succeed in destroying people's health.

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