It was discovered that the bacteria C. diff (Clostridium difficile) produces spheres called ferrosomes and that these structures are important for infection in animals. Bacteria have long been thought to not have any organelles like eukaryotic cells do, but this now appears to be incorrect. The researchers at Vanderbilt wanted to determine if C. diff produces ferrosomes to manage its need for iron, focusing on how pathogens like C. diff get their iron and other nutrients. C. diff causes more than 29,000 deaths a year in the United States and its treatment options are limited. The research team found that two genes, fezA and fezB, were required to form ferrosomes. Using C. diff bacteria that did not have these genes, the researchers found that ferrosomes were necessary for the bacteria to fully colonize and cause disease in an animal model. They found that ferrosomes were especially important for C. diff infection in inflammatory bowel disease. This discovery demonstrated that the ferrosomes helped with combating “nutritional immunity”. The ferrosomes were encased in a membrane, classifying them as organelles in this bacteria.
This study is really interesting as it demonstrated the presence of organelles in bacteria, which was otherwise thought to not contain any at all. What also makes the study more interesting is the possibilities it creates of creating new antibacterial drugs. Without ferrosomes, C. diff cannot perform to their full functions. Using this information on how the host-pathogen interaction is important for infection, there are a number of ways to discover how new antibacterial drugs could be made to treat C. diff.