Bacteria Make Good Linguists and Electricians | The Institute for Creation Research
Bacteria Make Good Linguists and Electricians

Our scientific forefathers thought of germs as simple living things. They were oh, so wrong. Apparently, when it comes to living things, small does not mean simple. Two new discoveries about germs that live in or on human bodies take microbe ingenuity to a new level.
In one report published in PLOS Pathogens, researchers under the direction of Luisa Hiller at Carnegie Mellon University decoded a germ’s molecular message.1 Pneumococcus2 bacteria can live happily in your throat until they decide to unite. When they build walled colonies, they can cause pneumonia.
But they can’t construct their mucous shield without first discussing their plan. Bacteria talk.
Hiller’s lab is compiling the first bacterial dictionary. Lead author of the PLOS Pathogens paper, Surya Aggarwal, described the chemical word encoded in a peptide he named BriC. Essentially, BriC carries the message, “Make more biofilm.” The cells typically speak this word to one another in a growth stage called competence. During competence, neighboring cells open their chemical doors and can even exchange genetic instructions.
The Biological Sciences lab at Carnegie Mellon found another surprise. MCS News wrote, “In a final twist, the researchers also found that bacteria may also be making semantic changes to their words.” The bacteria can make BriC outside of competence, make more BriC, and make it more often. What are the odds that chance-based processes coordinated three adjustments to enhance biofilms?
A second find shocked its discoverers. Every day, human gut bacteria can transport electrons outside of their cells. Here’s why that impresses.
Scientists have long known that some bacteria in mineral-rich environments transport individual electrons to outside minerals like iron oxide. For example, they use iron oxide as an electron acceptor to keep their vital energy processes moving along. But scientists had pigeonholed these mineral-based bacteria as the only ones capable of moving electrons outside of themselves. The discovery that the common gut bacteria Listeria monocytogenes do it too jolts the mind.
We don’t eat iron oxide, so what accepts electrons inside our guts? The species-specific layering of intestinal bacteria comes to mind. Each layer contributes its own expertise to nutrient processing. One layer discusses its needs with gut cells. Another layer coordinates its receivables and deliverables as nutrients pass (or don’t pass) through the gut.3 Could these bacteria transfer electrons and coded messages to one another?
A Nature summary said,

The bacterium might encounter conditions in which minerals represent an attractive electron acceptor, but it seems more probable that the highly reactive flavins in this pathway [inside the bacteria] aid electron transfer to compounds [outside the bacteria] such as organic soil components, disulfide groups on proteins or even other microbes.4

Common gut bacteria reflect expertise in linguistics and electricity. In other words, they reflect the work of a genius. Tweet: Common gut bacteria reflect expertise in linguistics and electricity. In other words, they reflect the work of a genius.

Bacteria Make Good Linguists and Electricians:

@ICRscience @icrbthomas


The idea that free-living microscopic cells contain enough molecular precision to manage individual electrons boggles the mind. Human engineers dream of harnessing such miniaturized manipulators, and the same goes for the precise chemical languages these bacteria speak. The origin of bacteria’s shocking ability to transfer these electrons to neighboring microbes in a coordinated effort to thrive far exceeds what nature alone could accomplish. It points toward design.5 Like those bacteria that transfer electrons through protein nanowires in sea-floor mud,6 common gut bacteria reflect expertise in linguistics and electricity. In other words, they reflect the work of a genius.
1. Aggarwal, S. D. et al. 2018. Function of BriC peptide in the pneumococcal competence and virulence portfolio. PLOS Pathogens. 14 (10): e1007328
2. Steptococcus pneumoniaae.
3. Anderson, K. L. 2003. The complex world of gastrointestinal bacteria. Canadian Journal of Animal Science. 83 (3): 409-427.
4. Cahoon, L. A., and Freitag, N. E. 2018. The electrifying energy of gut microbes. Nature. 562 (7725): 43-44.
5. Bacteria and sorghum roots offer another recent example of this cross-talk for mutual benefit. See Guliuzza, R. Sorghum and Bacteria Cooperative Design. Creation Science Update. Posted on October 16, 2018, accessed October 16, 2018.
6. Thomas, B. Bacteria Share Metabolism through Nanowires. Creation Science Update. Posted on March 10, 2010, accessed October 16, 2018.
*Brian Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

The Latest
Is Evolution ‘Fake Science’?
The organization BioLogos, which advocates that Christians accept secular evolutionary claims, recently published an online essay entitled “How to...

Cambrian Explosion Alive and Well
A new editorial in GSA Today is claiming that secular scientists should cease using the term “Cambrian Explosion.”1 It’s not...

Abraham Ate Bananas?
Since the word banana does not occur in Scripture, any evidence of bananas in ancient Middle Eastern diets would have to come from the ground. New research...

3-D Human Genome Radically Different from Chimp
All plant and animal genomes studied so far exhibit complex and distinct three-dimensional (3-D) structures in their chromosome configurations depending...

Amazonian Artwork and the Post-Flood Ice Age
An extensive series of South American Ice Age artwork may be of interest to biblical creationists. In 2017 and 2018, scientists discovered a nearly eight-mile-long...

Creation Kids: Dinosaurs
You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with ICR’s special Creation Kids learning...

Inside January 2021 Acts & Facts
How is ICR winning science and scientists back to Christ? What is the significance of fossil bone collagen discoveries? Did pterosaurs have feathers?...

Savvy Sons of Light
Many Christians grow uncomfortable when their pastor teaches about money. If it’s any consolation, I know many pastors who feel the same way....

Did God Make Harmful Parasites in the Beginning?
Parasites are a unique form of life in today’s world. These invertebrates come in all shapes and sizes, from single-cell animals (e.g., Plasmodium...

False Hypotheticals—Beyond Darwin's Imagination
Don’t believe it if someone tells you that a pair of “walking whale”-like mammals trudged off the Ark and later procreated a line...