“Listening” viruses have been effective killers of bacteria

Any live structure one way or another communicate and transmit information to each other. If we are talking about bacteria, they pass each other a variety of signaling molecules. A group of scientists from Princeton University (USA) in the course of studying the characteristics of this interaction found a virus that could eavesdrop on these signals, thereby selecting the optimum time to attack and even preserve the viability of the entire population of their relatives.

The fact that viruses able to kill bacteria has long been known. Such viruses are called bacteriophages, and, penetrating into the cell, killing it from the inside, reproducing its copies. The problem here is this: if all the bacteria will die — viruses will have nowhere to breed and survive, therefore bacteriophages after “the work” also die after some time. But as it turned out, not all viruses want to put up with this state of Affairs. Dr. Bonnie Bassler and graduate student Justin Silp identified the virus VP882, which behaves quite differently.

“The idea that the virus encounters a molecule that bacteria use to communicate — this is something completely new. We found it in the natural environment, and then rebuilt the virus so that he can choose certain molecules of a certain type of bacteria.” — said the scientists in an interview with the journal Cell.


The photo of E. coli bacteria and virus. One of the viral proteins marked with a red marker. When the virus is in “standby” mode (left), colony of bacteria is growing, and “listening” red protein spreads to every cell. When the virus “knows” that the colony has reached a certain size, the virus goes into “attacking” mode

A new virus has enormous potential as a bacteriophage for the treatment of diseases, as it does not act like a typical virus has a wide range of effects.

“Most viruses can infect only a specific cell type. For example, influenza viruses affect only cells of the respiratory system, HIV infects only certain immune system cells. But the virus VP882 has a “multiple hosts”. We conducted tests with three types of bacteria — Vibrio cholerae, salmonella and E. coli. In all cases, the virus behaved equally effectively.”

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