A vampire-like bacteria 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.
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 [link: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/12/453].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.
|Contact: Fariss Samarrai|
University of Virginia