Scientists from Skoltech and research centers in Sweden and Switzerland presented results that help better understand the mechanism of interaction between bacteria and phages — viruses that infect bacterial cells. The discovery can be an important step on the way to develop new ways for fighting infections. The study is published in the Cell Reports journal.
Disease-causing microorganisms become more resistant to antibiotics. Researchers across the world keep searching for new mechanisms to combat pathogenic bacteria — one of them is phage therapy. Bacteriophages are natural “predators” and enemies of bacteria with a high infection specificity. They are harmless to the human organism, have a natural origin, and can be found wherever there is life and bacteria. Phages had been studied more than 100 years ago, but when antibiotics were discovered, the research interest declined.
“Our laboratory at Skoltech pursues research into the new systems of bacterial immunity. In recent years, bioinformatics has allowed predictions of a plethora of novel antivirus systems and a new field emerged — microbial immunology. Molecular mechanisms for most of those systems have not been uncovered yet, so one of the ways to learn how microbial immunity works is to find out how viruses managed to overcome the defense. The interaction between viruses and bacteria can be described as an arms race: when bacteria acquire a new defense strategy, it exerts great pressure on the opposing side — phages. In turn, phages that somehow acquire resistance to the bacterial immunity should emerge. It initiates a new stage of bacterial adaptation, and such intense competition leads to a wide variety of antiviral systems,” says Head of the Laboratory of Metagenome Analysis and a study co-author Artem Isaev.