We already have a lot to worry about when it comes to bacteria, as more and more strains becoming resistant to our dwindling arsenal of antibiotics. Last year, a woman in the US was killed by a superbug resistant to every antibiotic available. But scientists continue to discover more worrying facts about the apparently simple, single-cell organisms we call bacteria: such as the way they beam out electrical signals to recruit other species to join their communities. That’s the conclusion of new research studying biofilms, the thin layer of cells and slime formed whenever bacteria glue themselves to a surface, and it can teach us more about how these microscopic communities live.
Biofilms are found in all kinds of places, from the plaque on your teeth to the underside of rocks, and they’re a particular concern for researchers, because instead of just one strain of bacteria growing on something, bacteria species team up to form these sticky, adhesive films, which are much harder to treat with chemicals and antibiotics.
It’s estimated that biofilms are responsible for more than 80 percent of all microbial infections in the body, so if we can find out more about how they form, and how we might be able to break them apart, it would be a huge win for medicine.
Now a group of scientists from the University of California, San Diego, say the bacteria are essentially sending out electronic advertisements to recruit new members to their biofilm, drawing in different bacterial species from outside.”In this way, bacteria within biofilms can exert long-range and dynamic control over the behaviour of distant cells that are not part of their communities,” explains lead researcher Gürol Süel. But the good news is that, now we know how this works, it gives us new options for dealing with biofilms, and understanding how bacteria communicate and work together in the first place. Source: We now know bacteria can communicate electrically, and we should be worried