C. elegans – a worm used as a model for many aspects of mammalian biology – has been seen moving in a new and mysterious way in the presence of a worm disease-causing bacterium. Worms swim singly in liquid until a type of Leucobacter is added, then they wriggle into a ‘worm-star’ formation (pictured). Once infected, their tails stick together and become knotted. Any adult worms trapped in the worm-star are unable to move and die, allowing growth of the infecting bacteria; however, baby worms occasionally make a quick get-away (bottom right) by autotomy or self-amputation, splitting their body in half. This is the first time that this mode of attack has been reported, and its mechanism of action is unknown. Discovering how this worm-trapping trickery works could provide insight into beating bacterial infection in humans.
Written by Katie Panteli
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.