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War games in our noses

Posted Jun 17 2010 3:24pm

I written here before about how cunning and nasty bacteria are. We all know about how they can morph into something Battlenew that resist antibiotics. But that ain’t nothing. New research from the University of Pennsylvania has mapped out a sort of game plan that bacteria use inside the mucous membranes of the nose. This game plan, observed in mice noses, is the result of different species of bacteria battling each other for dominance of that territory.

In a nut shell, some bacteria, in trying to vanquish the enemies, recruit immune cells to come to their side, making the immune cells think the enemy bacteria is the immune cells’ enemy as well. With this new wartime alliance, a bacterial garrison can potentially win the battlefield and with it, the right to colonize.

However, I just wonder if a balanced immune system might not eagerly and naively swarm to the aid of the summoning bacteria, perhaps backing off until both bacteria armies nearly kill each other off, and then sweep in to bayonet any remaining stragglers.  Who knows?

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