For decades, microbiologists thought that bacteria act individually, unaware of their multitudinous counterparts involved in causing the same infection. In the past two decades, however, they have discovered that many species of bacteria 'communicate'. In fact, bacteria can signal to each other that their numbers are sufficient to launch a coordinated attack.
Owing to the relative newness of this research area, few of these cell-to-cell signaling systems, known as quorum sensing, have been described. Now, by working with Burkholderia cenocepacia, an opportunistic pathogen that infects cystic fibrosis patients, a research team led by Lian-Hui Zhang from the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) has described a previously unknown quorum-sensing system that is present in many human bacterial pathogens.
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