Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Looking for Weaknesses

Insight into the dynamics and architecture of multi-species communities of bacteria

01 March 2023

Looking for Weaknesses

No-one wants to be eaten, and here two types of bacteria, Vibrio cholerae (highlighted in red) and Escherichia coli (yellow) do their best to avoid a predator. A third bacteria called Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus (blue) stalks the perimeter of these bacterial colonies or biofilms, picking off stray E.coli. Researchers watching these tiny sieges spot that V. cholerae are usually able to defend themselves by arranging defensive ‘walls’, but adding em>E.coli. to the mix disrupts these defences. This mixed biofilm give E.coli. sanctuary – they’re more likely to survive attack – but leave V. cholerae more vulnerable – a heroic sacrifice to protect the weak perhaps? The success of these sprawling communities (each around one billion times smaller than a medieval city) also depends on where they grow. As these microbes are potentially hazardous to human health, scientists use clues in these predator-prey studies to spot weaknesses in biofilms in hospitals and public places.

Written by John Ankers

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