• Question: What is the relation of bacteria and metals?

    Asked by Betty to Marikka on 19 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Marikka Beecroft

      Marikka Beecroft answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      Bacteria need metals to grow and survive. One third of bacterial proteins contain metals and can’t work without them. Most of these proteins are needed to make energy for the bacteria to use or survive harsh environments.

      Too much or too little metals though can kill them, in fact your body uses this fact to it’s advantage. Some macrophages (the white blood cells that eat bacteria) when they consume a bacterium will starve it of metals, then flood it with so much metals it pops or dies!

      Bacteria also sense metals to understand where it is, for example your body uses all the metals you get from your diet or drinks and locks them away in your cells to stop bacteria growing. Though bacteria when they sense this lack of metal they will then produce toxins to burst cells open and get those metals so they can live.