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Press Release 11-133

When Viruses Infect Bacteria

Looking in vivo at virus-bacterium associations sets stage for better understanding of such interactions in human health

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Illustration of viruses infecting bacteria in a termite's hindgut.

Virus-bacterium associations were examined in the natural environment of a termite's hindgut. Three general scenarios were seen. In the first (1) there was a one-to-one association: one type of virus matched one type of bacterium host. In the second (2) the host bacterium was associated with a diverse group of viruses, indicating perhaps a more ancient infection or a more susceptible host. In the third case (3) very similar viruses were seen infecting several different types of bacterial hosts.

This study tested methods of examining virus-bacterium interactions in nature, rather than in vitro--from a culture. It opens a new door to understanding the diverse and highly populated world of viruses and bacteria that we know so little about.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Cover of the July 1, 2011 issue of the journal Science.

The researchers' work is described in the July 1, 2011 issue of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2011


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