Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Monday, May 20, 2002

Day 1 of ASM(well, day 2 actually, but I skipped day 1, so sue me). No earthshattering results from grad student poster presentations, but a general theme has become apparent to me, that may interest the non-microbiologist public. One of the most important developments of the last 20 years or so is the understanding that bacteria live in organized groups most of the time, not flasks of rich yellow liquid (this might seem obvious to some, but we aren't necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed!). A revolution in microbiology has been the application of molecular biology to bacteria living in what are called biofilms. The research may sound mundane (i.e. "ExoS production in an AlgS mutant biofilm of P. aeruginosa") but the implications are profound. Bacteria cause disease in plants, animals and humans when they live in biofilms. They clean up radioactive waste (Deinococcus radiodurans) living in biofilms, and they fix CO2, photosynthesis, make "stalks", and a hundred other things, while living in biofilms or other interrelated communities. More specifics tomorrow, but the class assignment is to think about how biofilms affect you (hint, think medical implants).