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Watch Your Mouth

Insight into the evolution and adaptability of human-symbiont bacteria that divide lengthways

10 September 2022

Watch Your Mouth

It’s not easy, living in a mouth. Aside from the constant threat of chomping, or being washed away with a meal, the skin cells available to cling to are constantly shed and replaced. Despite this, the thriving bacterial communities in our mouths rival those in our guts – and this Conchiformibius steedae bacterium may hold clues to why. Unlike many rod-shaped bacteria its cells divide longitudinally (splitting lengthways like a chopped log) and remain stuck together after division forming multicellular filaments. Here, differently-coloured fluorescent stains highlight spines between cells in the overall structure – which can grow to the size of small caterpillars. C. steedae’s cells work together – researchers believe this is key to how they adapt to the harsh oral environment. They may make fascinating model organisms to design and test new antimicrobial drugs – and they’re easily found, around half of us may have C. steedae in our mouths.

Written by John Ankers

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