Some bacteria look very like fungi. Streptomyces (pictured) were once thought to be filamentous fungi because of the smooth tendrils that protrude from each cell, and their mode of reproduction using spores (lumps seen on tendrils pictured). These wriggly cells are medically useful because they naturally produce antibiotics. In the wild, antibiotics are made by bacteria to kill off nearby bacterial species, competitors for food and space. Streptomycin (the antibiotic produced by Streptomyces) was discovered by Ukrainian microbiologist Selman Waksman – born on this day in 1888. This was the first antibiotic to cure tuberculosis, a factor that helped Waksman win a Nobel Prize in 1952. The unrelenting increase in bacterial resistance to these medicines today, means the need for effective antibiotics remains just as strong. Experts are dedicated to finding novel species, often from extreme environments, as part of the ongoing search for new antibiotic compounds.
Written by Edwin Colyer
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.