New Notre Dame paper offers novel insights into pathogen behavior

December 17, 2014

A new study by a team of researchers that includes University of Notre Dame scientists Joshua Shrout and Mark Alber provides new insights into the behavior of an important bacterial pathogen.

Alber, Vincent J. Duncan Family Professor of Applied Mathematics, and Schrout, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, studied Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen responsible for both acute and persistent infections.

"While this ubiquitous environmental bacterium rarely infects healthy people, it is a common pathogen among susceptible populations, such as individuals with cystic fibrosis, burn victims, ventilator patients, and those who have had intestinal reconstruction," Shrout said. "Pseudomonas aeruginosa is among the most common hospital-acquired infection pathogens and causes of death for intensive care unit patients."

The researchers investigated, using combination of experiments and computational modeling, how bacteria swarm in groups containing millions of cells.

"We show in this paper that appendages of this bacterium called 'pili' link together to alter group motion and give swarming groups a form of braking power," Alber said." These bacterial swarms are able to change their motion as a group to avoid toxins. We showed this by demonstrating that bacteria with pili will avoid an area containing antibiotic--but cells without these pili do not slow their motion, swarm into the antiobiotic region, and are killed."

Although the study focused on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the results potentially offer insights into the behavior of other bacteria.

"This is a very fundamental discovery that gives us insight into the response and control of bacteria that alter their behavior as an entire group," Shrout said. This knowledge may be useful to understand how pathogens and other bacteria can evade compounds we might use to control them and advance our understanding of how some infections become so difficult to cure."

"The next steps are to more specifically determine how individual cells are behaving in these swarming groups to detail how they coordinate their motion and then apply this knowledge to understand colonization of different types of surfaces such as human cells or medical plastics," Alber said.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
-end-


University of Notre Dame

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.