"How Bacteria Communication Could Change Medicine" is a brilliant example of a paper on infections. This talk was about bacteria, how they talk among themselves, and also communication across other bacterial species and its implication on the future of medicine. Bacteria live as social beings, for example, in communities and as such, there is a need for communication both within their species and outside. They are multicellular in that they act better in groups to achieve tasks. Bassler argues that many bacteria use chemical language to carry out this communication and that they can distinguish themselves from each other just the same way as humans do. Quorum Sensing is a process through which bacteria secrete a signaling molecule called autoinducers into their environment.
This is the mode of communication between bacteria. The concentration of this signaling molecule increases with the increase in the number of bacteria in a colony. When the critical mass of bacteria and autoinducers is reached, specific behaviors are induced depending on the need. These autoinducers are species-specific but many bacteria produce a universal autoinducer called Al-2 which enables them to communicate across different bacteria species.
Al-2 was first discovered in Vibro fischeri; a bacteria with bioluminescent qualities and is found predominantly in symbiosis with various aquamarine species like the bobtail squid. The relationship between them is such that, the bacteria inhabit a special light organ in its mantle. This squid hides in the sand by day and emerges at night to hunt. On bright nights, its shadow could make it visible and vulnerable to attacks by predators. The squid is also packed with sensors on its upper surface to detect the amount of illumination in the night sky and with this information, it opens its mantle to release the light until its shadow disappears.
In the morning, the squid allows the concentration of the bacteria to be diluted and the bioluminescence dissipates. Bacteria need to count their numbers, determine whether they have reached a critical mass then act in unison to carry out processes that require many cells acting together to be effective. Quorum Sensing allows bacteria to coordinate their behaviors on a large scale and in doing so act as multicellular organisms.
This enables bacteria to carry out or behave in a manner that is beneficial only when performed as a group. According to Bassler (2009), understanding Quorum Sensing is important in fighting deadly strains of bacteria. As this process is not unique to bacteria, it could lead to a better understanding of the communication between cells in the human body and thus aid in early diagnosis and treatment of diseases. This could also be an important advancement in preventive medicine. The discovery of Al-2 could aid in the development of new approaches to antibiotics.
This could be made possible by developing a therapy that could act by blocking the communication between bacteria. Such a drug would not kill these bacteria directly but disrupt their activity and prevent them from releasing their toxins and thus prevent the development of resistance as has been the issue with many antibiotics. For example, the cell to cell signaling in Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which causes up to approximately 10% of hospital-acquired infections in burns patients, cystic fibrosis, and other patients with impaired immunity) could be reduced or blocked leading to far fewer fatalities. The researchers are relatively young and mostly in their 20s and 30s.
These are delightful individuals and easy to work with and mold. This generation is innovative and curiosity-driven hence good for scientific discovery. They are open-minded and especially open for new ideas, unlike the older generation which could be rigid and with their minds set on particular ideas. She uses young researchers who are likely fresh out of college and possess new ideas and know-how in research.
ReferencesBassler, B. L., & Ted Conference LLC. (2009). Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria "talk". New York, NY: TED Conferences, LLC.