The Grim Reaper of the Soil

Streptomyces griseus may seem like a nice, tame name for a bacteria but don't let it give you the wrong idea.  This bacteria is dominant in its environment because of its ability to constantly evolve and to endlessly bombard its nearby enemies.  These drugs we call antibiotics work as stated, by killing bacteria, which is exactly what Streptomyces griseus is trying to do.  It's in constant biological warfare with its neighbors to keep the upper edge.


Our bacteria protects itself from neighbors exactly like these; or in a very vague sense like these pictures.  (Provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

But, you might say, "why doesn't the secretions hurt Streptomyces griseus itself since it also is a bacteria?"  And this is a good point, however, this brings us to the very interesting thing about antibiotics.  Many bacteria species have developed resistances to certain antibiotics, which is the same in our organism.  This poses a huge issue in the medical scene as we will soon see, but for now just think of it as a war where Streptomyces species of all types have developed more secretions over time to target new, resistant bacteria.

Besides this very lethal interaction with other members of its domain,Streptomyces griseus is fairly docile, degrading material for its own needs whilst protecting itself from outside threats with its secretions.  This is extremely important since "Streptomyces are nonmotile, making survival a challenge."  (Johnston)  Streptomyces are like fungi and plants in this regard as well, which is a large disadvantage compared to other bacteria in the soil that are able to move.


This shows a bacteria that is able to move around its environment, unlike our bacteria of interest.  (Provided by MedlinePlus)

As we have discussed here and at some points earlier, Streptomyces griseus is important for humans in regards to medicine, and now we will see why!

Don't Fear the Bacteria