Hidden potentials of nature: scientists are looking for viruses that will infect and kill bacteria

Scientists are looking for viruses that will infect and kill bacteria

The scientists are developing a new genetic approach that will accelerate the study of the interaction between bacteria and viruses. The interactions between phages and microbes can have important consequences for the health, agriculture and climate of the planet. New ways to fight bacteria can include both eliminating dangerous strains and modifying beneficial viral strains. But even the smartest designs are sometimes shattered by the possibility of viruses infecting bacteria.

Phages, just like parasitic organisms, are constantly changing the way the bacterial host strain is used. It's like the constant struggle for survival that provides different molecular arsenals, and the researchers are eager to study them, but it's a very tedious and time-consuming process.

To study protective strategies, the specialists from the Berkeley laboratory developed an effective method. It consists of a combination of three methods that can reveal how bacterial receptors can use phages to infect a cell, and how cellular mechanisms use bacteria to respond to a phage infection. A researcher Vivek Mutalik believes that phages are the most common biological objects on the planet.

They are recognized as a key force in the nutrient cycle in the environment, in agriculture and are important for human and animal health. Understanding their interaction will help to know the microbiome of the planet better and to develop new drugs, vaccines or phage cocktails that will help to eliminate antibiotic resistance.

The scientists used technology to create gene deletions and increase gene expression, and thus were able to determine which bacteria are used to evade phages. So the scientists were able to figure out which receptors phages are targeting without analyzing their genome.

The scientists tested the new method on two strains that target 14 genetically diverse phages. The results confirmed that the new method works efficiently and quickly. It quickly discovered a set of phage receptors that had previously been identified in decades of research.

The scientists believe that the new method can be expanded and thereby simplify the study of the biology of our planet.

Reference: “High-throughput mapping of the phage resistance landscape in E. coli” by Vivek K. Mutalik, Benjamin A. Adler, Harneet S. Rishi, Denish Piya, Crystal Zhong, Britt Koskella, Elizabeth M. Kutter, Richard Calendar, Pavel S. Novichkov, Morgan N. Price, Adam M. Deutschbauer and Adam P. Arkin, 13 October 2020, PLOS Biology. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000877