The hidden lifestyles of Bacillus cereus and relatives

Environ Microbiol. 2003 Aug;5(8):631-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-2920.2003.00461.x.


Bacillus cereus sensu lato, the species group comprising Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus thuringiensis and B. cereus (sensu stricto), has previously been scrutinized regarding interspecies genetic correlation and pathogenic characteristics. So far, little attention has been paid to analysing the biological and ecological properties of the three species in their natural environments. In this review, we describe the B. cereus sensu lato living in a world on its own; all B. cereus sensu lato can grow saprophytically under nutrient-rich conditions, which are only occasionally found in the environment, except where nutrients are actively collected. As such, members of the B. cereus group have recently been discovered as common inhabitants of the invertebrate gut. We speculate that all members disclose symbiotic relationships with appropriate invertebrate hosts and only occasionally enter a pathogenic life cycle in which the individual species infects suitable hosts and multiplies almost unrestrained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus anthracis / genetics
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity
  • Bacillus anthracis / physiology*
  • Bacillus cereus / cytology
  • Bacillus cereus / genetics
  • Bacillus cereus / pathogenicity
  • Bacillus cereus / physiology*
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / genetics
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / physiology*
  • Digestive System / microbiology
  • Ecosystem
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates / microbiology
  • Spores, Bacterial / physiology
  • Symbiosis