A mathematical explanation of an increase in bacterial swimming speed with viscosity in linear-polymer solutions

Biophys J. 2002 Aug;83(2):733-9. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(02)75204-1.


Bacterial swimming speed is sometimes known to increase with viscosity. This phenomenon is peculiar to bacterial motion. Berg and Turner (Nature. 278:349-351, 1979) indicated that the phenomenon was caused by a loose, quasi-rigid network formed by polymer molecules that were added to increase viscosity. We mathematically developed their concept by introducing two apparent viscosities and obtained results similar to the experimental data reported before. Addition of polymer improved the propulsion efficiency, which surpasses the decline in flagellar rotation rate, and the swimming speed increased with viscosity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Movement
  • Vibrio / physiology
  • Viscosity