In labs, bacteria may swim freely. But out in the world, including our bodies, bacteria often exist packed together in dense communities called biofilms. And these configurations can help them cause illness. Finding clues about how such bacteria group together could therefore lead to better therapies to prevent infections and fight diseases.
With that idea in mind, researchers looked at biofilm-assembling bacteria notorious for causing infections in the urinary tract and the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis. They scoured the genomes of different strains of the bacteria for genes that affect movement. And particular genetic mutations make the bacteria super-strong swimmers—that talent enables them to easily move away from each other, a phenomenon called hyperswarming. The mutations thus also make it harder for the bacteria to stick together into the biofilms associated with illness. The study is in the journal Cell Reports. [Dave van Ditmarsch et al., Convergent Evolution of Hyperswarming Leads to Impaired Biofilm Formation in Pathogenic Bacteria]
A better understanding of how to keep bacteria apart could lead to techniques for stopping biofilm formation—which could translate into treatments for those diseases that depend on bacteria really getting stuck on each other.
—Dina Fine Maron
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]