The communication factor, called extracellular death factor (EDF), enables the activation of a built-in "suicide module" that is located on the bacterial chromosome and is responsible for bacterial cell death under stressful conditions.
While suicidal cell death is counterproductive for the individual bacterial cell, it becomes effective for the bacterial community as a whole by the simultaneous action of a group of cells that are signaled by EDF. Under stressful conditions in which the EDF is activated, a major subpopulation within the bacterial culture dies, allowing the survival of the population as a whole.
Understanding how the EDF functions may provide a lead for a new and more efficient class of antibiotics that specifically trigger bacterial cell death in the intestine bacteria E. coli and probably in many other bacteria, including those pathogens that also carry the "suicide module." Given the growing resistance of bacteria to existing antibiotics, this would be a blessing.
This is great news, especially with the spread staph infections outside of hospital environments.