in Bangor University Seminars

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Some virus­es aren’t dan­ger­ous to humans, a bac­te­rio­phage is a virus that is specif­i­cal­ly geared up to “attack” bac­te­ria! In fact, some are amaz­ing­ly useful…

Dr. Dar­ren Smith from Northum­bria Uni­ver­si­ty high­lights, in a Ban­gor Uni­ver­si­ty sem­i­nar, how these bac­te­rio­phages can be used to tar­get P.aerug­i­nosa. A bac­te­ria respon­si­ble for sec­ondary infec­tions in hos­pi­tals and the wors­en­ing of cys­tic fibrosis.

The image below does­n’t show a bunch of gone-off wot­sits but P.aeruginosa. Which is the gram-neg­a­tive rod-shaped bac­teri­um that is caus­ing all the fuss in hospitals.

Accord­ing to Dr Smith, cer­tain bac­te­rio­phages can be used to tar­get the bac­teri­um to pre­vent human infec­tion. When the bac­te­rio­phage attacks there is two main cycles the bac­teri­um can go through.

Lytic

The first stage is where the phage attach­es to the bac­teri­um and inserts its DNA.

The first stage, the bac­te­rio­phage is pic­tured on top of the rod-shaped bac­teri­um, insert­ing its DNA coloured in red.

The phage inserts itself into the chro­mo­some and directs the cell metab­o­lism to pro­duce viral com­po­nents and copies of phage DNA which are then synthesised.

Viral com­po­nents include phage heads (blue pen­tagons) and DNA strands that have been syn­the­sised inside the bac­teri­um (red).

The phage com­po­nents are packed with DNA and cre­ate a cell lysis (break) to release com­plet­ed infec­tive phages.

Bac­te­rio­phages leav­ing the bac­teri­um after lysis (this destroys the bac­teri­um cell).

 

Lysogenic

This cycle starts in a sim­i­lar way to the lyt­ic cycle, the DNA inserts itself into the chro­mo­some, but instead of cre­at­ing more phages it cre­ates two phage DNA incor­po­rat­ed chro­mo­somes that split into two cells via bina­ry fission.

A bac­teri­um that con­tains the viral­ly altered DNA that has syn­the­sised and sep­a­rat­ed via bina­ry fission.

This pre­vents nor­mal bac­teri­um cell func­tion and metabolism.

The halt in metab­o­lism in the bac­teri­um is key, as Dr Smith elab­o­rates on the minute knowl­edge the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has on the meta­bol­ic process­es of the bac­teri­um. There­fore, to under­stand and to devel­op more strate­gies to reduce bac­te­r­i­al human dam­age fur­ther research into their meta­bol­ic process­es is needed.

This sem­i­nar showed to me that the micro­scop­ic world is just as dog eat dog as ours. It also elab­o­rat­ed the impor­tance of under­stand­ing the most basic of func­tions. With­out a wealth of knowl­edge in the metabolomics of the organ­ism, it would be mas­sive­ly dif­fi­cult to deter­mine how to prop­er­ly remove it.

The removal of this bac­teri­um, as the sem­i­nar showed, can mean the dif­fer­ence between the life and death of immuno­com­pro­mised patients in hos­pi­tals. This is just one type of bac­teri­um, but it has exas­per­at­ed to me the need for fur­ther research into bac­te­rio­phages for fur­ther pro­tec­tion of humans from sec­ondary bac­te­r­i­al infections.

This field of research, in my opin­ion, is still under­de­vel­oped and under­used in sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies today. Thus I would not be sur­prised if we wit­nessed future shifts towards this research and sci­en­tif­ic investments.

If you would like to know more on bac­te­rio­phages this paper by Debar­bi­eux (2010) is per­fect­ly use­ful in explain­ing the infec­tion, res­o­lu­tion and effec­tive­ness of bacteriophages.

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