Bugs on a Slippery Plane: Understanding the Motility of Microbial Pathogens with Mathematical Modelling

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Many pathogenic microorganisms live in close association with surfaces, typically in thin films that either arise naturally or that they themselves create. In response to this constrained environment, the cells adjust their behaviour and morphology, invoking communication channels and inducing physical phenomena that allow for rapid colonization of biomedically relevant surfaces or the promotion of virulence factors. Thus, it is very important to measure and theoretically understand the key mechanisms for the apparent advantage obtained from swimming in thin films. We discuss experimental measurements of flows around a peritrichously flagellated bacterium constrained in a thin film, derive a simplified mathematical theory and Green's functions for flows in a thin film with general slip boundary conditions, and establish connections between theoretical and experimental results. This article aims to highlight the importance of mathematics as a tool to unlock qualitative mechanisms associated with experimental observations in the medical and biological sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiophysics of Infection
EditorsMark C. Leake
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-32187-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-32187-5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in experimental medicine and biology
PublisherSpringer New York
ISSN (Print)0065-2598

Bibliographical note

©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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