Do You Even Lift?

Fact: The strongest living thing on the planet is gonorrhea.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae (the bacterium that causes gonorrhea) is a force to be reckoned with, given it can pull with a force over 100,000 times its own body weight. For a human to compete, you’d have to shift over ten million kilos, which weighs in at just over 50 blue whales.

The secret to the incredible strength of this bacterium is tiny  tentacle-like structures called pili, which are attached to a biological motor not dissimilar from our own muscles. These allow the bacterium uses to crawl across surfaces, but the huge forces they can exert might also be a way in which the bug forces its way into our cells when infecting humans.

Admittedly, this powerhouse is a little on the small side, weighing in at 0.000000000001 grams (one trillionth of a gram), so in real terms it can actually only pull something about 50 times lighter than a grain of sand. It could still best you in a fight though – some strains of gonorrhea could kill you in a couple of days, and with their growing antibiotic resistance there might soon be nothing your GP can do for you.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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