Clearly, the ability of bacteria to communicate with each other is limited – their unicellular form restricts them in this endeavour. Bacteria can, however, communicate by giving off signals called quorum sensing molecules. These molecules are constantly released by bacteria to let each other know how many of them are in the immediate vicinity. When they realize that they have enough of their buddies around, their behaviour suddenly changes and the whole group begins acting in a different manner, often manifesting as an infection (note: the best lecture that I have seen on quorum sensing is available for free below from TED, and it’s only 20 minutes long). Only recently, riots quickly engulfed my hometown of Vancouver, and I was struck by how similar the two processes were. It gives me a small measure of satisfaction to write a piece comparing mindless bacteria to the equally mindless degenerates that briefly infected our city on June 15th.
Posts tagged: bacterial infections
In the past six years I’ve learned a lot about bugs. Microbes comprise 70% of all living organisms in the world. And we have ten times more bacteria than human cells. So why ponder these peculiar facts? In short, how we understand the myriad interactions between humans and microbes decides how we treat – or fail to treat – a range of human diseases.
My first unexpected foray into the pathology of bacterial disease started in 2005, as I became increasingly ill with an odd constellation of symptoms that eluded doctors. Looking back, it seems possible I visited every medical specialty in western medicine! My shortness of breath, fatigue, cardiovascular troubles and neck pains puzzled my PCP, ENTs, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, a physiatrist and an interventional radiologist. And that’s not the complete list. I knew I wasn’t crazy as my health spiraled downward into an indescribable hell.