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Microscopic Meme Series: Crashing an Environmental Bacterium’s “Time Warp” Dance Party

What’s creepier than the inside of Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Just take a look at the environmental bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, dancing to the Time Warp under a microscope.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes infections in people who have immune systems that are compromised, or who have serious wounds or burns. It is resistant to many common antibiotics and forms drug-resistant biofilms on medical devices. Biofilms are populations of bacteria encased in protective slime-like substances.

Dr. Lori Burrows, IIDR member and Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University and her trainees study Pseudomonas aeruginosa and explains why this bacterium likes to move. “The bacteria make retractable filaments called pili that they use to attach to, and pull themselves along, surfaces. This is how the infection spreads. If you prevent them from making or retracting their pili, they can’t infect very well.”

Dr. Burrows and her team study this bacterium to find ways to tackle the antibiotic resistance crisis. “We are looking for drugs that could prevent pili from being made, or from functioning; such drugs could help stop infections from spreading so antibiotics won’t be necessary.”