Surprising Discovery: Phages Can Attack Dormant Bacteria

Surprising Discovery: Phages Can Attack Dormant Bacteria

In a groundbreaking study, researchers at ETH Zurich have made a surprising discovery about bacteriophages, viruses that prey on bacteria. It was previously believed that phages could only infect bacteria that were actively growing. However, the team at ETH Zurich found evidence that some phages are capable of attacking dormant bacteria.

The researchers embarked on their study in 2018, hoping to isolate phages that target dormant bacteria. It wasn’t until 2019 that they achieved their breakthrough. Doctoral student Enea Maffei isolated a previously unknown virus from rotting plant material. This virus, named Paride, is the first phage known to attack bacteria in a dormant state.

The Paride phage was found to infect Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium commonly found in various environments, including the human body. Certain strains of this bacterium can cause serious respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. The researchers have not yet determined how the Paride phage is able to target dormant P. aeruginosa bacteria, but they suspect that it uses a specific molecular key to awaken the bacteria and hijacks their multiplication machinery for reproduction.

To test the efficacy of the Paride phage, the researchers combined it with an antibiotic called meropenem. When tested in cell cultures, the combination of the phage and antibiotic successfully killed 99% of dormant bacteria. In living organisms, such as mice with chronic infections, the combination proved to be highly effective as well.

While this discovery is a glimmer of hope for future treatments, there is still much to learn. Phage therapy, using viruses to fight bacterial infections, is still in its early stages. Comprehensive studies are needed to fully understand its potential and limitations. Nonetheless, this study provides exciting evidence that phages can target dormant bacteria and may offer an alternative to antibiotics in the future.

FAQ Section

1. What did the researchers at ETH Zurich discover about bacteriophages?
– The researchers discovered that some phages are capable of attacking dormant bacteria, contrary to the previous belief that phages could only infect actively growing bacteria.

2. What is the name of the phage that the researchers isolated?
– The phage is named Paride.

3. How did the researchers find the Paride phage?
– The Paride phage was isolated from rotting plant material by doctoral student Enea Maffei.

4. Which bacterium does the Paride phage infect?
– The Paride phage infects Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium commonly found in various environments, including the human body.

5. What is the hypothesis regarding how the Paride phage targets dormant bacteria?
– The researchers suspect that the Paride phage uses a specific molecular key to awaken the dormant bacteria and hijacks their multiplication machinery for reproduction, although this has not been fully determined.

6. What is the efficacy of the combination of the Paride phage and an antibiotic called meropenem?
– In cell cultures, the combination successfully killed 99% of dormant bacteria. In living organisms, such as mice with chronic infections, the combination proved to be highly effective as well.

Key Terms

– Bacteriophages: Viruses that prey on bacteria.
– Dormant bacteria: Bacteria in a state of inactivity or low metabolic activity.
– Pseudomonas aeruginosa: A bacterium commonly found in various environments, including the human body. Certain strains can cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
– Phage therapy: The use of phages to fight bacterial infections.

Suggested Related Links

ETH Zurich
Phage Therapy: Using Viruses to Fight Bacterial Infections

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