Newcastle University scientists have determined that bacteria have the ability to smell you coming.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers who love studying things they can’t see, the world of science has been graced with the knowledge that bacteria display four of the five “typical” senses. They are able to see, taste, touch, and now – smell.
The Newcastlians, led by Dr. Reindert Nijland, have discovered evidence which indicates that bacteria respond differently when in the presence of certain smells, most notably ammonia.
Should bacteria “smell” ammonia in their immediate area, they stop whatever else it is they might be doing – like moving the hell away – and start laying down biofilm. Biofilm – also known as slime – causes all bacteria in the immediate vicinity to band together and basically say “this is our territory now, losers” and is one of the leading causes of infection on things like heart valves.
This process is also known as “biofouling” and can happen to things like ships and other water-borne objects, and can be a giant pain in the ass to remove.
Biofilm: It is not pleasant.
Ammonia, which is one of the most common natural sources of nitrogen, is necessary for bacterial growth, so it’s no surprise that bacteria get all defensive whenever they get a whiff of the stuff.
What is surprising is that they little fellas can smell at all, but tests done by Nijland’s team clearly show the bacteria acting purely in response to airborne ammonia.
The hope is that this discovery will allow scientists to better predict just what will smell great to bacteria and draw them in, and what will smell like a fifteen year old boy wearing three liters of Axe cologne and drive them away.
There’s been no word on playing Mozart to colonies of Staphylococcus bacteria to test their auditory capabilities, but we sure if something comes along, they’ll hear about it.