Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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How stomach bug Campylobacter moves

09 September 2020

Stomach Turning

Changing direction while swimming is awkward, we’ve too many flailing limbs to rearrange quickly. Not such a problem for these Campylobacter jejuni. Equipped with a tail-like flagellum at either end on their bodies, they adopt an unusual swimming stroke to twist themselves through the guts of human hosts around the world causing gastroenteritis. In this zoomed in video, each tiny C. jejuni (artificially stained red) rotates its 'rear' flagellum (green) to create propulsion, boosted by the 'front' flagellum which wraps around the body so it points towards the rear. To change direction they simply swap appendages, unwrapping one flagellum and wrapping the other up, helped by the bacterium’s helix-shaped body. As elegant and enviable as C. jejuni‘s swimming turn is, it contributes to nasty stomach infections, so these insights might help design treatments to limit their flagella movement.

Written by John Ankers

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