The genome of a vampire-like bacteria that leeches onto other specific bacteria as has its genome sequenced, and revealed its usefulness as a living antibiotic for a range of infectious diseases.
Micavibrio aeruginosavorus makes it’s living by seeking out its prey and latching onto its victim’s cell wall and sucking out the nutrients. Unlike other bacteria which draw nutrients from their surroundings, M. aeruginosavorus can survive and reproduce only by drawing sustenance from specific prey bacteria.
This mechanism kills the prey, and researchers from the University of Virginia believe this makes it a potentially powerful means of destroying pathogens.
“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” said biologist Martin Wu.
The researchers used cutting-edge genomic technology to decode the genome, and have published their work in BMC Genomics.
Wu noted that this bacterium could provide a new approach to attacking pathogens without building up a resistance. Additionally, M. aeruginosavorus is a selective feeder and harmless to thousands of beneficial bacterial that dwell in the general environment and 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,” he said.
The bacterium is known to target Pseudomonas aeruginosavorus – the cause of serious lung infections in cystic fibrosis sufferers. It is able to swim through viscous fluids such as mucus and attack the glue-like biofilm and Pseudomonas aeruginosavorus.
M. aeruginosavorus still requires further study for a more thorough understanding of its gene functions, but it may find uses in reducing bacteria that form biofilms in piping, and on medical devices and implants that are susceptible to biofilm formation. Wu said genetic engineering will be required to tailor the predatory attribues of the bacterium to pecific uses in the treatment of disease.
“We have a map now to work with, and we will see where it leads,” he said.