...But why did it glow? And what has it got to do with microbiology?!
The Squid provides the conditions for these micro-organisms to multiply and when they reach a certain number they all start to emit light. This symbiotic relationship allows the squid to attract prey as it hunts at night. The process by which the bacteria know they have reached that certain number is called quorum sensing and is one of the most exciting areas of research in the field of microbiology at
In the human body small numbers of bacteria tend to colonise rather than cause disease. It makes sense really, if there aren’t many of you around you don’t want to draw the attention of the human body’s immune system. Eventually though these bacteria reach a population size where becoming invasive offers benefits such as extra energy sources and the immune response can be overcome. This change from colonisers to mass invaders seems to occur through the communication process of quorum sensing.
Now for the microbiologically exciting bit! Bacteria as well as
having a species specific “language”, or chemical molecule, have a generic language too which they use to “talk” to different species of bacteria. This generic “language” is the same chemical. This is exciting because it should then be possible to produce a chemical or drug that blocks the generic molecule and therefore prevents the bacteria becoming invasive. This would essentially lead to colonisation without disease. Even better, as this doesn’t threaten the survival of the bacteria (unlike antibiotics) there is no selective pressure and therefore no need for the bacteria to evolve a resistance mechanism. Quorum sensing offers the possibility that one blocking drug might prevent multiple types of infections. In an age of ever increasing antibiotic resistance this may be the answer to how we are going to treat infections in the future?
“Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Could the reason that Rudolph’s nose glowed be that he had a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria that colonised his nose and when conditions were favourable (i.e. dark and foggy Christmas Eve) those bacteria multiplied to levels that triggered a quorum sensing event that culminated in the bright red nose?
Or have I been listening to too many Christmas hits on my
“Then all the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in