Discovering Bacteria’s Communication System

Bonnie Bassler, microbiologist from Princeton, recently gave a very interesting presentation at the TED2009 Conference on signaling between bacteria. The part of the her talk that really interested me was the fact that humans and many bacteria have a symbiotic relationship. Certain bacteria help us digest food for example. It’s no wonder that most antibiotics have side effects since they indiscriminately target the beneficial bacteria as well as the harmful bacteria. Professor Bassler’s research suggests that developing molecules that target the way bacteria communicate with each other will eventually lead to novel antibiotics. I believe that targeting intra-species bacterial signaling, as she proposes, is extremely promising. Unfortunately, antibiotics that inhibit inter-species communications might result in side effects, due to non-selectivity and negatively impact the bacteria that help humans function. Nonetheless, her presentation provides a fascinating look at how bacteria interact, and it’s worth watching.

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