London, Apr 15 : Scientists from Columbia University in New York claim to have discovered the strongest living organism in the biological realm - gonorrhea bacterium.
This sexually transmitted bug has a knack of pulling a force equal to 100,000 times its body weight.
Various bacteria generate filaments called pili that are hundred times as long as they are wide and up to ten times longer than the bacterium itself. What's more, they can also contract.
It was already known that Neisseria gonorhoeae bacteria used 'type four' pili to crawl along the surface, hooked on to the cells and infected them.
With the help of electron microscopic images, scientists were surprised to discover that these bacteria could bundle pili together to exert long, strong pulls.
For the study, the team led by Michael Sheetz put the bacteria in a field of tiny gel 'pillars' and measured the amount the bacteria could bend, to measure the force of their pull.
They saw a lot of short grabs. The findings revealed that one pull in a hundred started out at the same strength as these short pulls, then increased in increments about equal to the force of the original pull, as if the bacteria was calling in more individual pili to help out the first, reports New Scientist
This led to a pull, which was, ten times stronger than the initial short grab, also lasted for longer hours.
The actual force applied by the bacteria was around a nanoNewton, or one billionth of a Newton, a force applied by humans to accelerate a kilogram by a metre per second squared.
"This constitutes a new paradigm for the generation of forces in the biological realm and could completely change our understanding of the way gonorrhea bacteria muscle up to cells and infect them," New Scientist quoted researchers as saying.