Research on a predatory bacteriophage has shown how it is capable of hijacking the cholera bacteria’s immune system.
The bacteriophage, which refers to a virus that infects and replicates inside bacteria, uses the hijacked system to disable the cholera bug’s defense mechanism so that it can continue to replicate while destroying more of the bacteria, according to IndiaTimes.com.
The discovery was made by a team of microbiologists from Tufts University and could potentially open the way to target superbugs, which are extremely resistant to currently-used antibiotics, according to the journal Nature.
Until recently, scientist believed bacteriophages existed only as rather primitive portions of DNA or RNA, and therefore lacked the kind of sophistication needed to control an adaptive immune system that can respond to a nearly infinite number of different challenges.
Each bacteriophage is parasitically mated to a specific bacteria type. In this case, the scientists focused on a bacteriophage that is linked to Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes the waterborne illness cholera in humans, according to IndiaTimes.com.
“The study lends credence to the controversial idea that viruses are living creatures,” Dr. Andre Camilli, a professor of molecular biology and microbiology from Tufts University School of Medicine, said, IndiaTimes.com reports.