Drugs that stop bacteria from talking might be new, powerful antibiotics – a much needed weapon in our never-ending struggle against bacterial infections. On the other hand, drugs that make bacteria chat more could boost the production of biofuels and other industrial goods that bacteria make for us.
In 1990 a young Bonnie Bassler, mesmerized by glow-in-the-dark bacteria that could talk to their peers to coordinate light production, wondered whether other bacteria could talk too. The answer, she soon found out, was yes – including all the nasty bacteria that cause disease. Today, Bonnie Bassler is a professor in molecular biology at Princeton University and an authority in the field of bacterial communication.
Her findings, that all bacteria can talk, revolutionized the way we think of bacteria and opened the doors to important medical and industrial applications.
But the discovery of bacterial communication has given us much more than new drugs. It has shown us how bacteria live in the real world and forced us to reconsider our own human nature – if bacteria are talking, social beings too, how different are we from them after all?
Prick your ears up and follow RadioScience on an exciting tour of the bacterial world and its chatty multilingual inhabitants - after which, we promise, you will never call bacteria boring again!