Arnold Schwarzenegger who? Forget Dwayne Johnson, Mark Henry or any other stony-strong man you know, the strongest creature on earth is a microorganism — the Gonorrhea bacteria!
Like all bacteria, the Neisseria gonorhoeae produces filaments called pili. The pili are like muscles or organs of locomotion. They are about a hundred times as long as they are wide and are ten times longer than the bacterium itself.
Prior to the finding, all that was known was that the Neisseria gonorhoeae uses its pili to crawl along surfaces or to attach themselves to infected cells.
But a scientific study by Michael Sheetz at the Columbia University in New York revealed a lot more. In trying to ascertain the strength of the pili, the scientists placed the bacteria in a field of tiny gel pillars and measured the amount it could pull.
The investigation showed that the bacteria can bind their individual pili to form a bundle. With this bundle, they are capable of exerting long, strong pulls.
The force of the pull was just around a NanoNewton. NanoNewton is a billionth of a Newton. For humans, that’s actually a small force. But it is really heavy for bacteria.
This means that the bacteria have the strength to pull with a force 100,000 times its body weight. To put into context, if humans had the same strength as the bacteria, they would be able to move 10 million kilos. No human is that strong. We all know that only few humans can even carry a 50 kilo bag of cement. This effectively makes the pili the strongest biological motor. Scientists are now trying to figure out how this can help them in their understanding of the infection.
While this is an amazing fact, gonorrhea itself isn’t amazing. With nearly two million new cases of gonorrhea every year, the bacterial infection is one of the most prevalent types of sexually transmitted disease in Nigeria.
How does the gonorrhea bacteria infect a person?
Gonorrhea transfers from one person to another through unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex. The bacteria tend to infect the moist areas of the body. For example: the vagina, throat, throat, uterus, urethra and even the eyes. People who have multiple sexual partners are thus at very high risk of infection.
What are the symptoms of Gonorrhea?
Symptoms usually appear within two to fourteen days after exposure. The symptoms are quite distinct for both men and women.
For men, symptoms include: a greater urgency of urination, persistent sore throat, swelling at penis opening and testicles, etc.
For women: heavier periods, fever, vaginal discharge, pain in lower abdomen, pain after sex, etc.
It is important to note that not every infected person develops clear symptoms. Nonetheless, a nonsymptomatic person is still as contagious as the symptomatic person. In fact, because a nonsymptomatic person is usually unaware of his infection, he is more likely to spread the disease.
How do we prevent gonorrhea infection?
As is commonly said, prevention is better than cure. Abstinence from sex or proper condom usage is sufficient. Although gonorrhea can be cured by antibiotics (prescribed by a doctor), studies have shown that the bacteria is becoming more resistant.
Now that you know you are dealing with the strongest living thing, you have more reason to be cautious.