The intestine is not just a conduit in which food and water are absorbed. It is also a "jungle" in which there live at least 1,000 different species of microorganisms (without counting the viruses) and where there may be 30 trillion bacteria (on average, in the body of a 70-kilogram man): , more or less 1.3 times more microbial cells than human cells.
A research that has just been published in Nature and that was conducted by scientists at the University of California at Berkeley (USA) revealed that hundreds of bacteria in the gut microbiota are capable of producing electricity. Until now, microbes with this capacity had been found in anoxic environments (with no oxygen), such as mines and lake sediments, but never in the intestine.
Specifically, the scientists discovered a new mechanism to produce an electrical current that is used by microbes such as lactobacilli, streptococci and pathogens that cause diarrhea (Listeria monocytogenes), gangrene (Clostridium perfringens) or hospital infections (Enterococcus faecalis).
"The fact is that many bugs that interact with humans, whether as pathogens, probiotics or even as part of the microbiota or involved in the fermentation of certain products, are electrogenic," Dan Portnoy, a researcher at Berkeley, said in a statement. leader of the investigation.
The reason why these bacteria produce electricity is the same as why other organisms breathe oxygen: to give up the electrons generated during the energy production process.
"Until now we had overlooked it, the interesting thing is that you could tell us a lot about how these bacteria infect us or help us have a healthy intestine." Dan Portnoy Leader of the investigation.