Fighting climate change with virus-infected bacteria

Fighting climate change with virus-infected bacteria


Marine microbial communities are uniquely
responsible for carrying out processes that are essential for all of Earth’s biogeochemical
cycles. The function of a microbial community is in
large part dictated by the composition: who is there and how many of each. This means that in microbial communities,
bacteria compete with one another for resources. In this fight, some bacteria can produce antibiotics
and use them against other types of bacteria. This kind of interaction has been known for
some time. But there is another fight strategy that scientists
are just now considering: bacteria might use the same viruses that infect them as weapons. In this context, defense becomes a necessity,
and we recently discovered another form of resistance: dying microbes can produce new
viruses that then go to attack the original invader. This type of competitive interaction is important
for stabilizing microbial populations in marine systems. And since many processes involved in climate
change are microbially-mediated, having a better understanding of the relationships
between bacteria and viruses could help us design better strategies for climate change
mitigation in the future.

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