Bacteriophage – Natural bacteria enemy in fight against diseases

Bacteriophage – Natural bacteria enemy in fight against diseases

Bacteriophage – Natural bacteria enemy in fight against diseases.
 
It was discovered over 100 years ago. The idea of using these natural enemies of bacteria in the fight against diseases came to Felix d’Herelle in 1919. The results of his first trials were promising, but the work stopped with the invention of antibiotics. These drugs were cheap and extremely effective, so they were quickly recognized as the ideal solution in the fight against diseases.

However, it took several decades of excessive, inappropriate use of antibiotics for the emergence of bacteria resistant to most or even all of these drugs. This problem has again drawn attention to bacteriophages.

One of the main directions of research is to find a therapy that is effective against Pseudomonas infections. Which very often cause pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract infections and postoperative wound infections in patients with a weakened immune system. In research aimed at developing an alternative to antibiotics, it turned out that a mixture of several phages is definitely more effective than a single virus infecting Pseudomonas cells.

Prof. Rotem Sorek
An Israeli geneticist from the Weizmann Institute of Science, studying bacteriophages in the soil, came up with the trail of viral communication. He discovered the social side of life of viruses that attack bacteria, the so-called bacteriophages or, for short, phages. These viruses can either live in a “stand-by” mode or multiply rapidly, destroying the attacked bacterium and spreading in search of new hosts. Until now, scientists believed that the change in the dynamics of development is a process that depends only on the conditions prevailing in the bacterial cell.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sorek proved that viruses actively “discuss” their strategy. When a bacteriophage enters a bacterium, it can cause the release of a protein molecule of just six amino acids. This is a message for other viruses. The more bacteria attacked, the more protein and the “louder” the signal that there are fewer and fewer free bacterial cells. Phages then stop the multiplication process and go into a dormant phase. Because the virus that multiplies leads to the disintegration of the bacterial cell, and the daughter virions are released into the environment. It is when the host is scarce that the virus stops infecting and saves.

The protein that changes the phage strategy is called arbitrium, and as its discoverer himself admits, it is a major revolution in virology. Research has been launched to search for arbitrium in the environment. It is already known that this protein is produced by 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.

Prof. Bonnie Bassler
Phages, on the other hand, can eavesdrop on information transmitted by their victims. Molecular biologist prof. Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University has discovered that viruses use chemical signals released by bacteria to choose the best time to multiply and kill the host. Natural abilities for molecular espionage were discovered, among others, in in the phages that infect the cholera-causing vibrators.

This is a great chance for an effective fight against pathogens. Prof. Bassler – using biotechnology methods – created phages that can eavesdrop on Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium, which are dangerous to health. This is the first step in obtaining programmed killers of any chosen species of microbe. Dr. Sorek, on the other hand, has a different idea: If we could use genetic engineering to introduce the arbitium-producing system into human viruses. Such as HIV or the herpes virus, which can last hidden in cells for many years. It is the sleep-inducing molecule that would become a new therapy for these diseases. Despite decades of research into antiviral drugs, we still have very little.

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