Viruses use free genes as weapons

The study results are important because phage viruses are emerging as therapeutic tools in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As doctors use “cocktails” of phages to combat infections in this growing crisis, the new information is likely to be useful when multiple phages are applied. Knowing that some phages use selfish genetic elements as weapons against other phages may help researchers understand why some combinations of phages do not reach their full therapeutic potential.

“The phages in this study could be used to treat patients with bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis,” said Joe Pogliano, professor of biological sciences. “Understanding how they compete with each other will allow us to create better cocktails for phage therapy.”

The authors of this paper are: Erica Birkholz, Chase Morgan, Thomas Laughlin, Rebecca Lau, Amy Pritchard, Sahana Rangarajan, Gabrielle Meza, Gina Lee, Emily Armbruster, Sergey Suslov, Kit Pogliano, Justin Meyer, Elizabeth Villa, Kevin Corbett and Joe Pogliano.

The detailed description of this research is as follows Science The study was funded by Emerging Pathogens Initiative grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health (R01- GM129245 and R35 GM144121) and the National Science Foundation (MRI grant NSF DBI 1920374).

Competing Interest Disclosure: Professors Kit and Joe Pogliano have equity interests in and receive income from Linnaeus Bioscience Inc.

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