Nav: Home

Virus-infected bacteria could provide help in the fight against climate change

February 17, 2019

Viruses don't always kill their microbial hosts. In many cases, they develop a mutually beneficial relationship: the virus establishes itself inside the microbe and, in return, grants its host with immunity against attack by similar viruses.

Understanding this relationship is beneficial not only for medical research and practical applications but also in marine biology, says Alison Buchan, Carolyn W. Fite Professor of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"Marine microbes are uniquely responsible for carrying out processes that are essential for all of earth's biogeochemical cycles, including many that play a role in climate change," she said.

Buchan will explain some of these interactions on Sunday, February 17, during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Her talk, "It's Only Mostly Dead: Deciphering Mechanisms Underlying Virus-Microbe Interactions," will be part of the scientific session titled Viruses, Microbes and Their Entangled Fates.

The function of a microbial community is in large part dictated by its composition: what microbes are present and how many of each.

Within the community, bacteria compete with one another for resources. In the course of this fight, some bacteria 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 like Buchan are just now considering: bacteria might use the viruses that infect them as weapons against other types of microbes.

"We have recently discovered that while they are in the process of dying, microbes can produce new viruses that then go to attack their original invader. This is a form of resistance we had not observed before," said Buchan.

This type of competitive interaction, Buchan said, is important for stabilizing the size of microbial populations in marine systems. This balance may be crucial for biogeochemical processes, including many related to climate change.

During Sunday's presentation, Buchan will be sharing the stage with Joshua Weitz, professor or theoretical ecology and quantitative biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Matthew Sullivan, associate professor of microbiology and civil, environmental, and geodetic engineering at the Ohio State University.
-end-
The scientific session "Viruses, Microbes and Their Entangled Fates" will take place on Sunday, February 17, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. in the Virginia Suite of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC.

A media briefing will precede the session at 11 a.m. on the hotel's Balcony A.

CONTACT: Andrea Schneibel (andrea.schneibel@utk.edu, 865-974-3993)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".