Viruses Do Communicate: Scientists Discover

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Throughout the history that scientists have been arguing whether the viruses could be classified as a living organism or not. So most of the virologists consider viruses as a gray area between living and non living. Even though viruses show a very simple biological setup, the influence they have over other living organisms including human is significant.

Scientists had found it very hard to understand the nature of viruses as they are quite small to observe scientifically. But slowly but surely scientists are gaining much needed understanding about the viruses and their biology. In a recent paper published in Nature a team of scientists show how viruses communicate with each other using chemical signals.

According to a report in Nature this is the first time any kind of a communication method has ever been found.

Sorek
Prof. Rotem Sorek uncovered a virus code (Image – Weizmann Institute of Science website)

This strange way of communication between viruses was spotted by a team of scientists led by Rotem Sorek, a microbial geneticist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Their findings are published in Nature on 18 January.

The research team had been working on a study on bacterial communications between each other and accidentally spotted the viral communication, Sorek and his group, led by research student Zohar Erez, with Staff Scientist Dr. Gil Amitai and Dr. Ida Levy of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, worked to isolate the communication molecule, eventually discovering that it is a small piece of protein called a peptide; they also worked to identify the gene encoding it and to unravel the way it functions. They found that in the presence of high concentrations of this peptide, phages choose the dormancy strategy, so they named it arbitrium, the Latin word for decision.

Availability of this molecule in the bacterial medium changed the way viruses attack the Bacteria. So this messenger molecule helps viruses to decide the way they should attack the host cell.

The research team believes that this would be a great initiative for a discovery of good drug that drives viruses to complete latency.

For more information – Press release by the Weizmann Institute of Science

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