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Fish getting emotional and fruit flies having primitive internal emotions? If this isn't enough to give you a braingasm, then how about bacteria that possess a sense of touch? Yes, you are not reading a science fiction book, because a research team led by Prof. Urs Jenal at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, has discovered that bacteria are actually capable of sensing their environment!

The research, which was published in the journal Science, revealed that bacteria respond to mechanical stimulus, and use this information to either attack host cells or navigate their way through their environment. Being so small, bacteria enter our bodies in a number of ways, including sneaking through very tiny openings such as skin pores. That is why the first few seconds of contact are often crucial for a successful infection. The researchers uncovered for the first time that the non-pathogenic Caulobacter bacteria have a "sensory" mechanism which they use to detect surfaces and later induce the production of a biological adhesive that allow them to cling to the extremity.

Caulobacter bacteria move in liquids by rotating a whip-like structure called the flagellum. What the researchers discovered is that these bacteria use their flagella as mechanical sensors. When the cell touches a surface, the flagellum's motion is interrupted, thus giving the bacteria a signal to start the production of an adhesin whose role is to tightly bind it to the fringe.

Although Caulobacter is a harmless bacteria, the scientists hope that their findings will pave the way for understanding what happens in the very first moments of a pathogen's initial physical contact with the human body.
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