Microscopic Battle

Scientists research ‘perpetual war’ among viruses, bacteria in search of antibiotic alternative

Asma Hatoum-Aslan
Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan

Don’t let her size fool you. Andhra can rock your world … if you’re bacteria.

Though 1,000 times smaller than a human hair’s width, Andhra, and others like her, could prove vital as researchers seek new approaches in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

First identified by University of Alabama researchers in 2015, Andhra is a virus. Not all viruses are created equal. Sure, some are nasty visitors, triggering a variety of illnesses from chickenpox and the flu to Ebola and AIDS. But, there’s another side to the discussion.

“Not all viruses are bad,” says Dr. Asma Hatoum-Aslan, a UA microbiologist. “There are many viruses out there that specifically attack bacteria. We are particularly interested in understanding the strategies they use to kill bacteria to our own advantage and harness them as alternatives to conventional antibiotics.”

Take, for instance, what happens when Andhra meets a type of bacteria called Staphylococcus, or staph for short.

“With just 20 genes, a startlingly small number, she can infect a staph cell and burst out of it after making about 10 copies of herself within 30 minutes or so,” Hatoum-Aslan said.

Learn more about the microscopic battle by reading the full article on the UA news site.