Bacteria is the most successful life form we know of and has adopted very well. It will, most likely, out live any life form we know of. Probably the only thing that can outlive bacteria is virus. But by many definitions virus is not a living thing.
What gives bacteria this ability?.
It’s DNA is not very stable. It can react to the environment. This can also be viewed as a strenght in flexibility. This inherent flexibility also gives it diversity. It’s adoptability also gives it the strength to not only survive in hostile environments but to aid the environment in many ways. In a lot of situations this gives it a symbiotic role (like the bacteria in our guts).
Such adaptability and flexibility gives raise to innovation. In a world that’s constantly changing, the only sure way to survive is to be able to adapt as quickly as one possibly can. As science advances, we are going to witness how intelligent bacteria is, just by having simple mechanism.
(I will write about this in a future blog but for now this blog is about the discovery of human DNA in specific bacteria)
Scientists discovered human DNA fragments in the genetic code of a specific bacteria.
Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago, found a fragment of human DNA in Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, one of the oldest recorded human diseases. This is in a paper about to be published this month in the journal mBio,
Lead author Dr Mark Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow in microbiology at Northwestern explained that we have already seen evidence that genes transfer horizontally among different bacteria and even between bacteria and yeast cells, but from human to bacterium is "a very large jump":
The discovery reveals some clues about gonorrhea’s adaptability and capacity to survive in humans. The disease transmits through sexual contact and is exclusive to humans.
Every year about 50 million people around the world become infected with gonorrhea, some 700, 000 of them in the US. Although curable with antibiotics, there is only one drug recommended for treatment because the bacterium has developed resistance to the various antibiotics used to treat it over the last 40 years.
Senior author Dr Hank Seifert, professor of microbiology and immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told the press that their discovery has evolutionary significance because it shows "you can take broad evolutionary steps when you’re able to acquire these pieces of DNA".
Seifert has been studying gonorrhea for 28 years, focusing mostly on how it evades the human immune system by changing its appearance and altering the way that human white blood cells behave. He said the Bible describes an ancient disease that sounds like gonorrhea. The fact gonorrhea can acquire genetic material directly from the host it is infecting "could have far reaching implications as far as how the bacteria can adapt to the host", said Seifert.
An ability to snatch fragments of host DNA probably helps the bacteria develop new strains, but whether this actually confers a survival advantage is not yet evident, he added. This is an important thing to study.
The researchers discovered the gene transfer from human to bacteria when the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sequenced the genomes of 14 gonorrhea clinical isolates and found three of them had a fragment of DNA that had an identical sequence to an L1 DNA element found in humans.
Further sequencing back at Seifert’s lab confirmed this and also showed that the human sequence was present in about 11% of the screened gonorrhea isolates.