Colonization, competition, and dispersal of pathogens in fluid flow networks

Albert Siryaporn, Minyoung Kevin Kim, Yi Shen, Howard A. Stone, Zemer Gitai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

The colonization of bacteria in complex fluid flow networks, such as those found in host vasculature, remains poorly understood. Recently, it was reported that many bacteria, including Bacillus subtilis [1], Escherichia coli [2], and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [3, 4], can move in the opposite direction of fluid flow. Upstream movement results from the interplay between fluid shear stress and bacterial motility structures, and such rheotactic-like behavior is predicted to occur for a wide range of conditions [1]. Given the potential ubiquity of upstream movement, its impact on population-level behaviors within hosts could be significant. Here, we find that P. aeruginosa communities use a diverse set of motility strategies, including a novel surface-motility mechanism characterized by counter-advection and transverse diffusion, to rapidly disperse throughout vasculature-like flow networks. These motility modalities give P. aeruginosa a selective growth advantage, enabling it to self-segregate from other human pathogens such as Proteus mirabilis and Staphylococcus aureus that outcompete P. aeruginosa in well-mixed non-flow environments. We develop a quantitative model of bacterial colonization in flow networks, confirm our model in vivo in plant vasculature, and validate a key prediction that colonization and dispersal can be inhibited by modifying surface chemistry. Our results show that the interaction between flow mechanics and motility structures shapes the formation of mixed-species communities and suggest a general mechanism by which bacteria could colonize hosts. Furthermore, our results suggest novel strategies for tuning the composition of multi-species bacterial communities in hosts, preventing inappropriate colonization in medical devices, and combatting bacterial infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1207
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume25
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - May 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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