While experimenting, a group of scientists noticed that a A virus, VP882, was able to intercept and read the chemical messages between the bacteria to determine when was the best time to strike. Cholera bacteria communicate through molecular signals, a phenomenon known as quorum sensing, to check their population number. The signal in question is called DPO. VP 882, a subcategory of bacteria’s natural predator, the bacteriophage, waits for the bacteria to multiply and is able to check for the DPO. Once there is enough bacteria, in the experiment’s case they observed cholera, the virus multiples and consumes the bacteria like an all-you-can-eat buffet. The scientists tested this by introducing DPO to a mixture of the virus and bacteria not producing DPO and found that that the bacteria was in fact being killed.
The great part about VP 882 is it’s shared characteristic with a plasmid, a ring of DNA that floats around the cell. This makes it easier to possibly genetically engineer the virus so that it will consume other types of bacteria. This entails it can be genetically altered to defeat other harmful bacterial infections, such as salmonella.
Current phage therapy is flawed because phages can only target a single type of bacteria, but infections can contain several types of different bacteria. Patients then need a “cocktail” with a variety of phages, which is a difficult due to the amount of needed testing in order to get approved for usage. With the engineering capability of using a single type of bacteria killer and the ability to turn it to kill bacteria, phage therapy might be able to advance leaps and bounds.
As humans’ storage of effective antibiotics depletes, time is ticking to find new ways to fight bacterial infections. Are bacteriophages and bacteria-killing viruses like VP 882, the answers?