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Sep 25, 2018

Bacteria talk to each other using molecules that allow them to coordinate group behaviors, which has been termed “quorum sensing”. 

A number of bacteria utilize quorum sensing to form gangs that coordinate beneficial behaviors such as symbiotic light production, as well as detrimental behaviors such as attacking their host. Dr. Marvin Whiteley is a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who studies bacterial chatter.

He has developed some innovative means to investigate bacterial chitchat, including trapping small clusters of bacteria in tiny synthesized “lobster traps” to see what kind of dialogue ensues.  

Dr. Whiteley talks about how and why bacteria talk to each other, whether lab conditions can help us understand what a pathogen does inside a host, how a polymicrobial “love story” in the mouth leads to dental problems, and how his interest in birds with colorful tails led him to a career in microbiology.  

microTalk recorded this discussion with Dr. Whiteley at the American Society for Microbiology Microbe 2018 meeting in Atlanta Georgia.     

The microCase for listeners to solve is about Kerosene Lampe, an infant who comes down with a scary infectious disease when her mother takes her to “the happiest place in the galaxy”.


  • Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)
  • Marvin Whiteley, Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA)
  • Jesus Romo (UTSA)

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