This Bikini-Shaped Bacteria Produces Some of the World's Strongest Glue

Illustration for article titled This Bikini-Shaped Bacteria Produces Some of the World's Strongest Glue

Remember the old Crazy Glue commercial where the guy suspended himself from his hard hat with just a dab of the adhesive? If he had been using the sugary compounds this bacteria naturally produces, he could have suspended a dump truck with the same amount.


Caulobacter crescentus is a common water bacteria that is responsible for the slime in our bathtubs, the film on our teeth, and the root of many difficult to treat infections. And when it sticks, it means to stay—the waterproof natural adhesive is rated to nearly five tons per square inch.

It uses the glue to affix itself to an anchor point as well as when forming bacterial communities (think Zerg Creep). To do so, the bacteria floats about until either of the its flagella (the bikini straps) touch a solid object. As soon as that happens, they'll stop flexing and the C. crescentus will automatically begin producing the glue which binds the bacteria to the surface.

Teams from Indiana University and Brown University used high-resolution video microscopy make the discovery, watching the production process in real-time. The team also identified two other bacteria species that use the same adaptation. They hope to use this information to help treat stubborn infections more effectively. I just hope they milk enough bacteria to recreate the classic Crazy Glue commercial. [NSF via LiveScience]

Image: Yves Brun / Indiana University


So what happens if you accidentally stick your fingers together while handling this glue? Have they found something that'll make things unstuck again?