As antibiotic resistance grows, researchers are discovering that these microbes are not just single, simple cells. We must understand the surprisingly complex ways bacteria “think” in order to keep them in check:
Phan and his team placed 10 E.coli bacteria (pictured) in the middle of a silicon chip laced with broth and watched them exit the chip maze through a microscope.
As they cleared paths of food, the E.coli tended to move toward unexplored, broth-rich areas, which ultimately helped them evacuate the maze. It took about 10 hours for about 1 percent of the multiple generations of bacteria to collectively solve the puzzle. That may not sound fast, but it’s five times faster than if the organisms had just been swimming around randomly, says Phan. – Sophia Chen, “These Bacteria Ate Their Way Through A Really Tricky Maze” At Wired (June 9, 2020)”
By the time the experiment ended, the original 10 bacteria numbered over a million. The paper is open access.
E coli bacteria also navigated a fractal-like maze with no exits (a dead end). Trapped in the fractal’s smallest branches, they built themselves up in clumps and launched themselves out of the dead ends in waves. They seemed to respond to chemicals emitted by other bacteria when co-ordinating their behavior.
As microbiologist James Berleman of Saint Mary’s College told Chen, bacteria must navigate many complex situations in nature, for example, our small intestine. Austin and Trung’s larger goal is to use their findings to develop better antibiotics. We can’t fight what we don’t really understand.Denyse O’Leary, “In what ways are bacteria intelligent?” at Mind Matters News
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