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In the Hawaiian bobtail squid (pictured), scientists have found that the same bacterial toxin that causes whooping cough and gonorrhea in humans is responsible for the development of an important organ. The finding, reported in the Nov. 12 Science magazine, suggests that the role of bacteria in their host organisms depends significantly on the biological context in which they are found. In one place, a bacterium may have a harmful role; in another, it may be critical for the animal's survival. The corresponding author of the Science paper is Margaret McFall-Ngai, a UW-Madison professor of medical microbiology.
Photo date: 2004
Image credit: William Ormerod/courtesy Margaret McFall-Ngai
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