How Bacteria Platoons Communicate to Conquer
How bacteria called Pseudomonas communicate with each other during infection
The more we know about how pathogenic bacteria arrive to and colonize our bodies, the better we can take measures to help our immune system combat them. While most bacteria that we coexist with are beneficial to us or at the very least, neutral, our body is constantly battling against microorganisms that may harms us.
In many infections, bacteria are distributed in clumps, or “aggregates”. The size of aggregates and their distance from each other can impact the development of an infection. The aggregate strategic map is also modified by cell-to-cell communication among bacteria. This communication can be within the aggregate, or between aggregates. Communication happens to coordinate an action, much like school of fish; when bacteria sense that they have a quorum (i.e., that their colony is big enough), they release a chemical signal that is “seen” by everyone in the group and which triggers a group response. Scientists call this mode of communication “quorum sensing”.
Scientists are trying to understand exactly how the microbial war plays out, to know with utmost precision how many bacteria settle, how fast they grow, how many explore the infected tissue to settle somewhere else and reproduce, and how each aggregate talk to each other. To accomplish this, scientists need to watch how bacterial aggregates behave in real time and on the battle ground. But taking samples of bacteria from infected organs, or keeping organs “alive” for long periods of time is essentially impossible. To get around this problem, Sophie Darch at Dr. Whiteley’s lab came up with an ingenious strategy.