Home Medizin Forschung enthüllt das dynamische Abwehrduo von Bakterien gegen Phagenviren

Forschung enthüllt das dynamische Abwehrduo von Bakterien gegen Phagenviren

von NFI Redaktion

Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered that bacteria can couple their defense systems to develop a formidable force greater than the sum of their parts to ward off attacks from phage viruses. Understanding how bacteria respond to these types of viruses is a significant step in combating antimicrobial resistance.

This groundbreaking research reveals that within each bacterial cell, different defense systems form partnerships and combine their strengths to effectively combat viral threats. The study results are published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Phage viruses, or bacteriophages, could be considered „the good guys“ of the viral world. These tiny organisms with a spider-like appearance can kill harmful bacteria without affecting the good bacteria in our bodies. Understanding how bacteria respond to phages is crucial for exploring how these viruses can be used as an alternative to antibiotics in combating human infections.

Just as our immune system protects us from harmful germs, bacteria have their own defense systems that form a dynamic shield against viral threats. Imagine if your white blood cells, antibodies, and killer T cells all combined their forces to collectively ward off a virus. That’s exactly what happens inside bacterial cells.

Previously, we thought bacterial defense was a solo act, but it turns out to be more of a buddy system. A „dynamic duo“ of defense systems pooling their strengths to produce a stronger response than they would have individually, potentially saving the cell from destruction.“

Dr. Franklin Nobrega, Lead author of the study, University of Southampton

The researchers analyzed existing datasets to identify patterns of paired defense systems in the genomes (cell DNA instructions) of around 42,000 bacteria, including E. coli. They looked for pairs that occurred more frequently than random chance would expect. They then selected a subset of these pairs and tested them in the lab for improved virus immunity and, most importantly, for „synergy“ – a bacterial defense effect that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

By identifying these enhanced systems and conducting further tests, they were able to see for the first time how partnerships between individual bacterial defense mechanisms rely on one system leveraging the function of another to enhance its activity. Together, they act more robustly than if they were separate.

Antibiotic resistance (AMR) has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global threats to public health. It occurs when medications like antibiotics no longer effectively prevent or treat diseases. While resistance to treatments can occur naturally, excessive use of certain medications and poor infection control exacerbate the problem.

Phages could be a way to help with AMR. Their ability to selectively kill harmful bacteria while sparing „good“ bacteria makes them a strong candidate as an alternative to antibiotics. However, much more research is needed before treatments can be refined and deployed on a large scale.

Dr. Franklin Nobrega explains: „Phages are already being used as a last resort to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, a practice known as phage therapy. But by understanding how bacteria defend against these phages, we can enhance our strategies for producing them, making them even more effective at destroying bacterial cells and providing a ray of hope in the fight against infections.“

The researchers note that their research will complement ongoing efforts to develop phage therapy through public engagement initiatives like the Phage Collection Project and open-science initiatives like KlebPhaCol.

This study was funded by the Wessex Medical Trust and the National Institutes of Health, USA.


University of Southampton

Journal Reference:

Wu, Y., et al. (2024). Bacterial defense systems exhibit synergistic anti-phage activity. Cell Host & Microbe. doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2024.01.015.

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