Bacteriophage – Natural enemy of bacteria fights disease
Bacteriophage – It was discovered over 100 years ago. Felix d’Herelle came up with the idea to use these natural enemies of bacteria in the fight against disease in 1919. The results of his first trials were very promising, but work ceased with the invention of antibiotics. These drugs were cheap and extremely effective, so they were quickly recognized as the ideal solution to fight disease.
However, it took several dozen years of excessive, inappropriate use of antibiotics for bacteria resistant to most or even all of these drugs to appear. This problem has again brought the attention of bacteriophages.
One of the main lines of research is devising a therapy effective against infections with bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas. Which very often cause pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract infections and postoperative wound infections. In patients with weakened immune systems. In studies aimed at developing an alternative to antibiotics. It turned out that a mixture of several phages is definitely more effective than just one virus infecting Pseudomonas cells.
Rotem Sorek, an Israeli geneticist from the Weizmann Institute of Science, found a trail of viral communication by studying bacteriophages found in soil. He discovered the social side of life of viruses that can attack bacteria. The so-called bacteriophages or shorter phages. These viruses can either stay in stand-by mode or multiply rapidly, destroying the attacked bacteria. And spreading in search of new hosts. Until now, scientists believed that the change in the dynamics of development was a process dependent only on the conditions in the bacterial cell.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sorek has proved that viruses are actively “discussing” about their strategy. When a bacteriophage enters bacteria, it can cause the release of a protein molecule made up of just six amino acids. This is news for other viruses. The more bacteria attacked, the more protein and the louder the signal that there are less and less free bacterial cells. The phages then stop the multiplication process and go into the dormant phase.
The protein that changes the phage’s strategy was called arbitrium and, as its discoverer himself admits, it is quite a revolution in virology. Research has begun seeking arbitration in the community. It is already known that this protein produces at least a dozen other phages. Each of them probably “speaks” in their own language, so the conversation can only take place among the closest relatives.
On the other hand, phages are able to eavesdrop on information communicated by their victims. Molecular biologist prof. Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University found that viruses use chemical signals released by bacteria to choose the best time to multiply and annihilate the host. The natural abilities of molecular espionage were discovered, among others phages that infect cholera comma.
This is a great chance to effectively fight pathogens. Prof. Bassler – using the methods of biotechnology – created phages that can eavesdrop on the bacteria Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium, which are harmful to health. This is the first step to obtain programmed killers of any chosen species of microbe. Dr. Sorek, on the other hand, has another idea: If we could genetically engineer a system that produces arbitrium into human viruses. Such as HIV or the herpes virus, which can stay hidden in cells for many years. It is the “sleep” molecule that would become a new therapy for these diseases. Despite decades of research on antivirals, we still have very little.