Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fighting fire with fire: 'Vampire' bacteria have potential as living antibiotic

Date:
November 1, 2011
Source:
University of Virginia
Summary:
A vampire-like bacterium that leeches onto specific other bacteria -- including certain human pathogens -- has the potential to serve as a living antibiotic for a range of infectious diseases, a new study indicates.

A vampire-like bacterium that leeches onto specific other bacteria -- including certain human pathogens -- has the potential to serve as a living antibiotic for a range of infectious diseases, a new study indicates.

Related Articles


The bacterium, Micavibrio aeruginosavorus, was discovered to inhabit wastewater nearly 30 years ago, but has not been extensively studied because it is difficult to culture and investigate using traditional microbiology techniques. However, biologists in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, Martin Wu and graduate student Zhang Wang, have decoded its genome and are learning "how it makes its living," Wu said.

The bacterium "makes its living" by seeking out prey -- certain other bacteria -- and then attaching itself to its victim's cell wall and essentially sucking out nutrients. Unlike most other bacteria, which draw nutrients from their surroundings, M. aeruginosavorus can survive and propagate only by drawing its nutrition from specific prey bacteria. This kills the prey -- making it a potentially powerful agent for destroying pathogens.

One bacterium it targets is Pseudomonas aeruginosavorus, which is a chief cause of serious lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

"Pathologists may eventually be able to use this bacterium to fight fire with fire, so to speak, as a bacterium that will aggressively hunt for and attack certain other bacteria that are extremely harmful to humans," Wu said.

His study, detailing the DNA sequence of M. aeruginosavorus, is published online in the journal BMC Genomics. It provides new insights to the predatory lifestyle of the bacterium and a better understanding of the evolution of bacterial predation in general.

"We used cutting-edge genomic technology in our lab to decode this bacterium's genome," Wu said. "We are particularly interested in the molecular mechanisms that allow it to hunt for and attack prey. This kind of investigation would have been extremely difficult and expensive to do only a few years ago."

He noted that overuse of traditional antibiotics, which work by either inhibiting bacteria propagation or interfering with cell wall formation, are creating so-called "super bugs" that have developed resistances to treatment strategies. He suggests that new approaches are needed for attacking pathogens without building up their resistance.

Additionally, because M. aeruginosavorus is so selective a feeder, it is harmless to the thousands of beneficial bacteria that dwell in the general environment and in the human body.

"It is possible that a living antibiotic such as M. aeruginosavorus -- because it so specifically targets certain pathogens -- could potentially reduce our dependence on traditional antibiotics and help mitigate the drug-resistance problem we are now facing," Wu said.

Another benefit of the bacterium is its ability to swim through viscous fluids, such as mucus. P. aeruginosavorus, the bacterium that colonizes the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, creates a glue-like biofilm, enhancing its resistance to traditional antibiotics. Wu noted that the living cells of M. aeruginosavorus can swim through mucus and biofilm and attack P. aeruginosavorus.

M. aeruginosavorus also might have industrial uses, such as reducing bacteria that form biofilms in piping, and for medical devices, such as implants that are susceptible to the formation of biofilms.

Wu said M. aeruginosavorus requires further study for a more thorough understanding of its gene functions. He said genetic engineering would be required to tailor the predatory attributes of the bacterium to specific uses in the treatment of disease.

"We have a map now to work with, and we will see where it leads," he said.

Wu and Wang's co-author is Daniel E. Kadouri, a researcher at the New Jersey Dental School. Kadouri is interested in M. aeruginosavorus as an agent for fighting oral biofilms, such as plaque.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Virginia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhang Wang, Daniel E Kadouri, Martin Wu. Genomic insights into an obligate epibiotic bacterial predator: Micavibrio aeruginosavorus ARL-13. BMC Genomics, 2011; 12 (1): 453 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-12-453

Cite This Page:

University of Virginia. "Fighting fire with fire: 'Vampire' bacteria have potential as living antibiotic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220602.htm>.
University of Virginia. (2011, November 1). Fighting fire with fire: 'Vampire' bacteria have potential as living antibiotic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220602.htm
University of Virginia. "Fighting fire with fire: 'Vampire' bacteria have potential as living antibiotic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220602.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins