Hopping bacteria

The bundled flagella (purple and green) of a confined E. coli bacterium struggle to get free so the organism can hop to the next trap. This behavior, newly illuminated by a Princeton study, shows a sharp contrast between longstanding models and real-world conditions. PIX/Princeton University

CURRENT biological models assume that many bacteria spread in a run-and-tumble pattern of diffusion, based on behavior in liquid laboratory cultures. But new research from Princeton University shows the tiny organisms actually use a hopping motion to move among tight spots in natural surroundings like the human intestine. The observations led to a new model that is 10 times more accurate than previous models, and could help improve a wide range of medical and environmental technologies. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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