How bacteria trick bugs into hitchhiking

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It has long been known that bacteria produce secondary metabolites with many different functions. Some of these are volatile compounds that easily vaporize and can be sensed by animals or humans. We can taste or smell them, just as animals do. One of these compounds is the aromatic compound geosmin produced by all Streptomyces strains. While studies showed that Drosophila is repelled by geosmin signalling toxic fungal growth, some mosquito species are attracted by it and decide to lay eggs near lakes full of geosmin-producers.

Now, a new study by Becher et al. elucidated the benefit of geosmin production for the bacterium. The authors showed that geosmin attracts springtails that subsequently transport the bacterial spores and spread them in the environment. Thus, for Streptomyces geosmin production results in hitchhiking and spreading in the environment.

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How bacteria trick bugs into hitchhiking

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Sarah Wettstadt

Science Writer, MicroComms

Dr Sarah Wettstadt is a microbiologist-turned science writer and communicator working on various outreach projects and helping researchers talk and write about their scientific results. Her overall vision is to empower through learning: she shares scientific knowledge with both scientists and non-scientists and coaches scientists in writing about their research. Sarah is blog commissioner for the FEMSmicroBlog and was a social media editor for FEMS for 1.5 years. Furthermore, she writes the blog BacterialWorld explaining bacterial concepts and co-founded the STEM-video platform STEMcognito. Previous to her science communication career, she worked as a postdoc in Marían Llamas’ lab on Pseudomonas aeruginosa’s ability to use heterologous iron sources and completed her PhD with Alain Filloux investigating the type 6 secretion system in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.