Air pollution is a major public health concern all over the world, with black carbon seen as a major contributor. In areas of high pollution, risks for some respiratory infections increase, and so researchers have been investigating to understand why. They found that black carbon alters the behaviour of bacteria within biofilms – the way that microorganisms exist on surfaces as a group secreting and excreting slimy substances. The biofilm alterations ultimately affect how the bacteria survive in our respiratory tract and avoid detection from our immune system. Black carbon was specifically seen to increase the resistance of the disease-causing Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilm structure (pictured) to the antibiotics oxacillin and penicillin. And it also allowed Streptococcus pneumoniae to spread down the respiratory tract to the lungs – a step that is essential for infection. This insight is a step towards solving this ever-growing issue.
Written by Katie Panteli
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