How bacteria communicate

bonnie basslerAs and SCDer, you are well acquainted with the power of the bacteria in your gut. Maybe you know that bacteria are single celled organisms and perhaps you are aware that bacteria outnumber the cells in your body by a factor of 10 to 1. But do you know how they communicate? Neither did I, but once I watched the TED talk by Bonnie Bassler I was fascinated.
The implications of her lab’s study is both intriguing and potentially far reaching.

If this is the first time you’ve heard of TED, I encourage you to poke around their site and watch their talks as they can be absolutely fascinating, funny and informative.
About TED:
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

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7 Responses to “How bacteria communicate”

  1. 1 Ryan April 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    wow, this is really interesting Paul, thanks for sharing it. This concept could explain two aspects of crohn’s that I’ve wondered about:

    1. Fluctuations in severity of the disease. If there are factors that lead to an increase or decrease in the number of bacteria, this would affect the cessation or initiation of an attack by the bacteria. I’ve often wondered why crohn’s varied in symptom severity over time.

    2. Why people can be symptom free on the SCD for an extended time and then have relapses. My understanding of SCD is that certain foods promote growth and elimination of those foods causes bacterial population decline. Therefore, it is possible that use of the SCD diet keeps the number of whatever pathogenic bacteria cause crohn’s low enough that they don’t attack and cause symptoms. They could still exist in the gut, but not active their attack. If foods are eaten that promote their growth, they could rapidly increase in numbers to a point where they begin an attack, causing a flare.

    Thanks again.

  2. 2 Paul Stocker April 14, 2009 at 9:21 am


    Thanks for your insightful comment. The ideas of bacterial communication in the video do seem to agree with the action of the diet.

    The example of bacterial quorum in the video is when that certain bacteria reaches a high enough concentration it luminesces. I wonder what action the bad-guy bugs in our guts are taking. Is their action to attack our bodies or are we simply suffering from an excess of their by-products?


  3. 3 Ryan April 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Good question Paul, it’s hard to tell. Perhaps the activity they engage in isn’t necessarily designed as an attack but ends up have a negative affect on their host. Perhaps it is to move deeper into intestinal tissue or something to that effect.

    Have you seen this:

    I feel hopeful that this program will finally identify what bugs live in a normal gut and what unique bugs live in a Crohn’s patient that cause disease. I think this understanding could lead to therapies for elimination of whatever pathogen causes Crohn’s, much in the same way that H Pylori ws identified and treated for stomach ulcers.


  4. 4 Ryan April 14, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Here’s another link regarding the Human Microbiome Project:

  5. 5 Paul Stocker April 15, 2009 at 9:08 am


    Thanks for the links. I have read about the HMP and agree that it may hold a lot of answers for us. It makes me optimistic to see researchers seriously pursuing this line of investigation.


  6. 6 Zebro 1 April 21, 2009 at 7:55 am

    That Bonnie lady is fun to listen to.
    Reminds me of my college days. The bacterial theory seems really sound and what they are trying to do is amazing. Just think of the benefits that are possible. All it takes is time and money right. And to think that humans would rather spend money on land, oil and guns.
    Oops – the soap box is near.
    Thanks for the tip on TED. Does TED have a website that has lectures various topics frequently?
    Have a great day.

  7. 7 Paul Stocker April 23, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Zebro 1,

    TED had a great website full of intriguing videos.

    You can find it at .


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