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The genius of bacteria
Date:1/24/2011

IQ scores are used to assess the intelligence of human beings. Now Tel Aviv University has developed a "Social-IQ score" for bacteria ― and it may lead to new antibiotics and powerful bacteria-based "green" pesticides for the agricultural industry.

An international team led by Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and his research student Alexandra Sirota-Madi says that their results deepen science's knowledge of the social capabilities of bacteria, one of the most prolific and important organisms on earth. "Bacteria are our worst enemies but they can also be our best friends. To better exploit their capabilities and to outsmart pathogenic bacteria, we must realize their social intelligence," says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

The international team was first to sequence the genome of pattern-forming bacteria, the Paenibacillus vortex (Vortex) discovered two decades ago by Prof. Ben-Jacob and his collaborators. While sequencing the genome, the team developed the first "Bacteria Social-IQ Score" and found that Vortex and two other Paenibacillus strains have the world's highest Social-IQ scores among all 500 sequenced bacteria. The research was recently published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Highly evolved communities

The impact of the team's research is three-fold. First, it shows just how "smart" bacteria can really be a new paradigm that has just begun to be recognised by the science community today. Second, it demonstrates bacteria's high level of social intelligence how bacteria work together to communicate and grow. And finally, the work points out some potentially significant applications in medicine and agriculture.

The researchers looked at genes which allow the bacteria to communicate and process information about their environment, making decisions and synthesizing agents for defensive and offensive purposes. This research shows that bacteria are not
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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