New research from Harvard University helps to explain how waterborne bacteria can colonize rough surfaces — even those that have been designed to resist water. A team of materials scientists and microbiologists studied the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, which has many flagella that stick out in all directions. The researchers found that these tails can act as biological grappling hooks, reaching far into nanoscale crevices and latching the bacteria in place.
The scourge of the health care industry, bacteria like E. coli are adept at clinging to the materials used in medical implants like pacemakers, prosthetics, stents, and catheters, spreading slimy biofilm and causing dangerous infections. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on March 18, suggest that antibacterial materials should incorporate both structural and chemical deterrents to bacterial attachment.
Primary source: PNAS