FEB 19, 2019 11:31 AM PST

Viruses That Infect Bacteria May Impact the Environment

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our world is teeming with many different kinds of microorganisms, which interact with us, one another, and the environment. Scientists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville are seeking to learn more about the relationships between bacteria that live in the ocean and the viruses that can infect them. Those microbes have a critical influence on our planet.

“Marine microbes are uniquely responsible for carrying out processes that are essential for all of earth's biogeochemical cycles, including many that play a role in climate change,” explained Alison Buchan, the Carolyn W. Fite Professor of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

We know that just like much larger organisms, the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes on Earth have to compete for space and resources, and survive among one another. In a microbial community, bacteria have an arsenal of weapons they can use against other species in that competition for survival. Some bacteria might produce antibiotics, for example.

It's also known that bacteria can be infected with viruses - called bacteriophages, but those viruses don’t always kill the microorganisms that they infect. In some cases, infectious viruses might benefit their host microbes, and scientists are learning more about how such viruses might aid bacteria in their fight for resources. Investigators like Buchan want to know whether bacteria infected with viruses can use that in the battle against other microbes.

"We have recently discovered that while they are in the process of dying, microbes can produce new viruses that then go to attack their original invader. This is a form of resistance we had not observed before," said Buchan.

Those beneficial microbial relationships might be able to help us learn more about how microorganisms are involved in and responding to changes in our climate and environment.

Buchan is interested in how that competition works to stabilize microbial populations loving in marine environments. The right balance of microbes might be critical to biogeochemical processes that relate to climate change and impact humans.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via University of Tennessee at Knoxville

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 23, 2018
Videos
DEC 23, 2018
'Miracle Baby' Survives Ebola
An ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease has caused a reported 560 likely cases of the disease (512 have been confirmed), with 336 dead so far....
JAN 09, 2019
Microbiology
JAN 09, 2019
Space Bacteria Are Adapting to Survive
Microorganisms that end up on the International Space Station just do their best to survive, researchers have found....
JAN 27, 2019
Microbiology
JAN 27, 2019
Alzheimer's Linked to a Gum Disease-associated Bacterium
Alzheimer's is more likely in the aged, but the exact causes were unclear. New work shows that it may stem from a brain infection....
FEB 04, 2019
Videos
FEB 04, 2019
Biodegradable Packaging, Inspired by Fungus
The planet is awash in plastic, and disposing of it is challenging. But we can start to reduce its use....
FEB 16, 2019
Videos
FEB 16, 2019
Brain Scans Reveal Inflammation in Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome
Ticks transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, which infects about 300,000 people every year in the US....
FEB 20, 2019
Microbiology
FEB 20, 2019
Lupus Flares are Connected to a Gut Microbe
Imbalances in the microbial community that lives in the human gut have been connected to a variety of disorders....
Loading Comments...