Scientists from Switzerland conducted experiments and found that some bacteria can move along surfaces using the touch. This will help prevent or stop acute bacterial infections in humans.
The researchers noted that many bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, crawl along surfaces using movements called twitching. They use nanoscale filaments as a source of energy for twitching, but scientists do not know which sensory signals coordinate the movements of microbes.
Now researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique de lausanne (EPFL) have discovered that the Pseudomonas bacteria use a mechanism similar to the human sense of touch to navigate surfaces. “This study is changing our understanding of bacterial motility,” notes senior author Alexander Persat of EPFL.
The researchers focused on how bacteria sense and respond to mechanical forces. Previous research has shown that Pseudomonas uses a kind of harpoon: after it extends and touches the surface, the saws activate a molecular motor that pulls in the filament, thereby propelling the cell forward.
The scientists also analyzed how individual Pseudomonas bacteria move across surfaces, such as the bottom of a laboratory saucer. The team suggested that the protein network regulates twitching, so they analyzed bacteria that were missing various components of the system. Some of these bacteria could hardly move, continuing to jerk back and forth; others always moved forward, even when they hit an obstacle.
Research findings can have important implications for human health. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a microorganism that is commonly found in soil and is one of the main causes of nosocomial infections. Clusters of Pseudomonas bacteria commonly form on surfaces such as catheters and respirators and can be extremely resistant to disinfectants and antimicrobials.