The organisms in any microbiome community continually interact. In fact, I recently wrote a paper that describes how microbe-microbe interactions can contribute to chronic inflammatory disease processes. But 2018 saw a major increase in research that characterized how viruses/phages interact with other organisms in the human body (in both health and disease). Here are several of my favorite studies on the topic:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus alters cell wall glycosylation to evade immunity

Lead author: Andreas Peschel, University of Tübingen, Germany

The team studied phages that can infect strains of the antibiotic-resistant bacterial species S. aureus (MRSA). They found that certain phages encode an enzyme (TarP) that helps S. aureus better evade detection by the host immune system.

Paper highlight: “These results will help with the identification of invariant S. aureus vaccine antigens and may enable the development of TarP inhibitors as a new strategy for rendering MRSA susceptible to human host defences”

Viruses cooperate to defeat bacteria

Lead author: Rotem Sorek, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

A viral mechanism to thwart bacterial defences (Sorek et al)

The team found that phages (which infect bacteria) can suppress the bacterial immune system (the CRISPR/cas system) during an initial wave of unsuccessful infection. However, although this first phage may fail to replicate, the immunocompromised bacterium often succumbs to subsequent successful infections by other phages.

Microbiome interactions shape host fitness

Lead author: William Ludington, University of California Berkely

The team developed a mathematical approach to study the fruit fly bacterial gut microbiome. They found that microbiome interactions are as important as individual species in shaping these fundamental aspects of fly physiology (development + lifespan).

The Emerging Role of Microbial Biofilm in Lyme Neuroborreliosis

Fabrizio Ensoli, San Gallicano Dermatological Institute IRCCS, Italy

The paper describes how in Lyme Neuroborreliosis, different strains of Borrelia often persist in biofilms. The ability of Borrelia to form into biofilm communities may “explain the low rate of Borrelia detection in the blood of infected patients as well as the ability of the spirochetes to evade the host immune system and resist antibiotic therapy.”