The Association of Microorganisms with the Tissues and the Mucous “Blanket” of the Gastrointestinal System
The term “glycocalyx” was first used to describe the polysaccharide coat at the surface of eukaryotic cells and subsequently borrowed to describe the similar fibrous polysaccharide coat on bacterial cells. Direct morphological examination of the adherent bacteria becomes much more difficult when the colonized tissue is covered with the “mucous blanket” that is characteristic of secretory gut epithelia. The polysaccharides of the biological world have been ephemeral in the perceptions of the morphologist because of a complex of technical problems. The fast-moving mucous blanket of the pulmonary airways is known to be a protective mechanism that carries potential colonizing bacteria away from the epithelial tissues and prevents their colonization by all but the most avidly adherent pathogenic Mycoplasma. Improved methods are now available for the study of the structure and function of bacteria in situ on a colonized surface.