Bacteria buildups, or biofilm growth, occur in industrial and medical settings. They clog pipes and cause infections in catheters, artificial valves, and joints. Their pesky growths may be controlled by ways you wouldn't expect. Scientists David Davies and William Costerton at Montana State University (MSU; Bozeman, MT); Matthew Parsek and Pete Greenberg at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA); and James Pearson and Barbara Iglewski at the University of Rochester, New York, reported that bacteria speak a chemical language. Therefore, biofilms may be controlled through the disruption of this natural messaging system. "We have discovered that bacterial behavior can be modified chemically," says David Davies. "These chemicals come from the bacteria themselves." The National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds the MSU biofilm center, began funding the next step--the development of chemical messages that would confuse the bacteria and usher in a new way of treating bacterial infections, for example. The group published its findings in the April 10 issue of the journal Science. Call: (406) 994-1849
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