The Main Properties of Bacilli Bacteria

The name bacillus means stick (in Latin), and the class of bacteria, bacilli, resembles a stick. Bacillus is oxygen-dependent bacteria. Although, some can survive without oxygen and belong to obligate aerobes and facultative anaerobes.

They produce a spore called endospore, a reduced version of the same bacteria to survive in extreme conditions by staying dormant. The endospore protects the bacteria from a change in temperature, desiccation, and radiation.

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A few examples are B. alcalophilus which survives in high pH; B. halodurans survive in a highly salty environment; B. siamensis possesses the ability to kill plant pathogens.

The bacillus cell wall is mainly composed of peptidoglycan and lipoproteins along with teichoic acid. The gram-negative bacilli have a thin peptidoglycan layer as compared to gram-positive bacilli.

Bacilli cells have a nucleoid (undefined nucleus) instead of a nucleus.

Cilia and flagella are locomotory adjuncts of bacillus.

Reproduction in bacilli occurs through binary fission and produces two daughter cells. In addition, bacilli can genetically recombine by three processes that includes transformation, transduction, and conjugation.

Transformation in B. subtilis – B. subtilis can take bacterial deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from the surrounding medium and incorporate it into its own to form a combinatorial DNA of two bacteria.

Transduction in B. subtilis – Sometimes, a virus can take up host bacterial DNA and transfer it into a recipient bacterial DNA. B. subtilis can take up such bacterial DNA through a virus.

Conjugation in B. subtilis – B. subtilis can transfer plasmid DNA from one bacterial cell to another with the help of sex pili when they come in contact with each other.

B. subtilis as a model organism provides a great advantage.

Diseases Caused by Bacilli
Bacillus causes a few infections that require the help of antimicrobial therapy. A few factors that can risk bacterial infection are drug abuse through injections, corticosteroid therapy, use of catheters, breast implants, low WBC count, and devices used in implants. Some serious effects of bacillus bacteria are as follows:

Ocular infections: Bacillus cereus is the pathogen responsible for many ocular diseases. For example, endophthalmitis, a severe illness, can visually compromise the patient within a mere span of 12-48 hours. The short time makes it extremely important to diagnose infection as early as possible. Clindamycin and imipenem are the drugs used to treat the action of Bacillus cereus in drug abuse patients.

Endocarditis: Bacillus causes endocarditis mainly in people who take drugs with the help of injections. Earlier, penicillin was used to treat endocarditis, but the bacteria quickly increased tolerance toward the antibiotic. Nowadays, vancomycin and clindamycin are antibiotics used to treat endocarditis.

Bacteraemia: Using intravascular devices brings the risk of contamination by a bacillus. In some cases, the bacillus enters the blood and causes bacteremia. If a catheter is used, removing the catheter to prevent the prevalence of bacillus can be a solution, or giving antimicrobial therapy of vancomycin helps.

Musculoskeletal Infections: Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is a disease that results in tissue death. It is caused by bacillus bacteria and can result in complications like amputations. Here, surgically removing dead and decaying tissue is the only treatment available today. In addition, bacillus causes acute vertebral osteomyelitis (VO) in drug abusers and chronic VO in case of trauma like vehicle accidents. Usually, vancomycin drugs help in the treatment.

Meningitis: Cerebrospinal fluid of otitis patients with an abscess in parameningeal foci or subdural hematoma are mostly infected with bacillus bacteria.

Bacilli as Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms introduced in the body to improve the functioning of the gut and keep it healthy. They are good microorganisms that balance out the harmful organisms in the gut microbiome. Bacillus is also known for its role in the production of probiotics. The bacilli class of spore formers tolerates a high acidic environment, heat processing, and cold storage and expresses food fermentation, pathogen elimination, and immunomodulatory abilities. Bacilli can produce enzymes like amylase, pectinase, and cellulose. In addition, it can synthesize vitamins like riboflavin, inositol, and carotenoids which make them an excellent candidate for probiotics. Research proves that bacillus can sustain the stomach’s acidic environment; however, the gut microbiome kills them. Recently Bacillus coagulans isolated from traditional fish of Manipur show antimicrobial activity against food poisoning pathogens and low cytotoxicity. Moreover, Bacillus subtilis showed the ability to kill foot ulcer bacteria Klebsiella. These instances prove that the bacilli class can be a probiotic formulation.

Despite providing significant advantages, people are skeptical about using bacilli because a few members of the class cause diseases. Moreover, the bacteria have the potency to make changes in themselves with time which is quite dangerous. Hence it is necessary to understand bacillus perfectly before introducing them to the gut microbiome.

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