NOV 20, 2019 08:00 PM PST

Learning More About the Unknown Viruses in the Human Body

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Some viruses, called bacteriophages, infect bacteria. A research team wanted to know more about bacteriophages that can infect Escherichia coli, a bacterium commonly found in the human gastrointestinal tract. Their work analyzed a variety of human clinical samples and revealed 43 bacteriophages, many of which were found in blood. While phages have been considered as a treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections, they can also spread resistance genes on to microbes. These findings, which have been reported in Frontiers in Microbiology, will help us learn more about the relationship between phages and the human body.

In the animation above, phages can be seen attacking E. coli.

"We examined 111 samples of blood, urine and other human body fluids to see if they contained phages. And we found them in almost one in seven samples," explained the first author of the study Dr. Cátia Pacífico, a scientist at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences. "We also found a new kind of phage from the Tunavirinae subfamily. The presence of phages in so many samples and the discovery of a new form show just how little we know about phages in the human body."

Bacteriophages are not well known or understood, but they may play a critical role in the maintenance of the microbial population that all humans host. If we are to employ phages in the fight against antibiotic-resistant microbes, we have to learn more about how they impact various microbes.

"Increasing antibiotic resistance is a major problem that is growing worldwide, and we still know very little about the way in which phages contribute to this," said Pacífico.

This research looked specifically at bacteriophages that affect E. coli, which is a common cause of illness, especially bacterial infections acquired in hospitals. It revealed a surprising number of them, which seemed adept at combating E. coli.

"Almost two-thirds of the samples that contained phages against E. coli did not have any bacteria of this kind," noted the research leader, Prof. Friederike Hilbert of the Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. "This suggests that phages can also be transported from A to B without their host bacteria."

This research also revealed more about disinfectants that are used to destroy bacteria. "Our results showed that not all disinfectants are capable of reliably destroying phages," added Hilbert.

Learn more about how bacteriophages might be used as a therapeutic from the video above.

Sources: Phys.org via PR&D Austria, Frontiers in Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 12, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 12, 2019
Discovery of Cell's Mechanism for Sensing Oxygen Wins Nobel
It may be possible to attack cancer or treat anemia or other diseases by interfering with the cells' ability to sense oxygen....
DEC 12, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 12, 2019
Imaging Tool Provides New Insight Into How Proteins are Moved in Cells
Motor proteins ferry cargo to different parts of the cell. Scientists have now learned more about how specific molecules get to the right places....
DEC 12, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 12, 2019
Super-Resolution Microscopy Reveals How DNA Damage is Repaired
People that don't carry functional copies of these proteins are more likely to get diseases that arise from unstable DNA....
DEC 12, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 12, 2019
Plants Moved to Land by Stealing Genes from Soil Bacteria
Algae were the first pants on earth, and they lived underwater. How they managed to move onto land was largely a mystery, until now. By studying the genome...
DEC 12, 2019
Immunology
DEC 12, 2019
Protecting Killer Immune Cells from Themselves
Destroying human cells compromised by viruses and cancer is the name of the game for so-called “killer” cells of the immune system. They employ...
DEC 12, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 12, 2019
Engineering a Better Viral Delivery System for Gene Therapy
To send gene therapy to diseased cells, scientists have turned to adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) to act as a delivery system....
Loading Comments...