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

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