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Nature. 2002 May 16;417(6886):243-4.

Caenorhabditis elegans: plague bacteria biofilm blocks food intake.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Bubonic plague is transmitted to mammals, including humans, by the bites of fleas whose digestive tracts are blocked by a mass of the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In these fleas, the plague-causing bacteria are surrounded by an extracellular matrix of unknown composition, and the blockage depends on a group of bacterial genes known as the hmsHFRS operon. Here we show that Y. pestis creates an hmsHFRS-dependent extracellular biofilm to inhibit feeding by the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Our results suggest that feeding obstruction in fleas is a biofilm-mediated process and that biofilms may be a bacterial defence against predation by invertebrates.

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