Bacteria are widespread, and they could infect animals to humans, causing a variety of illnesses and infections that could be dangerous to health. Hence, scientists continue their research about these microorganisms to understand better them, which helps ward them off. 

Observing How Bacteria Adapts

In new research, a team of scientists observed how a bacteria adapts to its environment and under what circumstances allow it to mutate into an even more infectious organism.

According to Phys.org, the researchers were led by Matthias Horn from the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna.

With the help of laboratory equipment, Horn and his colleagues observed a microorganism evolve in real-time, allowing them to understand how a bacteria adapts to its host in the environment, typically unicellular organisms.

The team also discovered that bacteria could become more infectious with changes in the gene expression and genome, specifically the genes responsible for bacterial metabolism and those that control a bacteria's interaction with its host.

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Verifying a Theory

To come up with the results of their study, the researchers observed the bacteria parachlamydia, a genus of environmental chlamydiae that is typically found in water or soil and are non-infectious, compared to their human-pathogenic cousins.

The observation lasted for 14 months within its unicellular host.

According to the report, Horn and his team kept the bacteria in two different experimental conditions: one allowed the bacteria to infect new hosts to survive, while the other could only reproduce within the original host cell.

The team did this to verify their theory on the development of the organism's infectivity.

"Our results reveal that if the bacteria can remain within one host cell and ensure that they continue to live in the daughter cells of the host when the host cell divides, their infectivity does not change," Paul Herrera, the study's first author, explains. "However, bacteria become increasingly infectious when they have to move from one host cell to another host cell in order to survive."

A Significant Difference

Furthermore, the researchers also studied the bacteria's genes at the beginning of its evolutionary process and again after 500 generations of evolution.

They found out that the two groups of genes were significantly different at 1,161 sites.

Nevertheless, only the bacteria that had to switch to other hosts have shown the significant changes in the gene expression that is vital for its infection mechanism and metabolic pathways that make it possible for them to live outside a host.

"The transmission pathway plays a crucial role in the development of infectivity in host-dependent bacteria. The observed increase in infectivity is based on a variety of genetic differences and major changes in gene expression, "Horn explains. "These modifications result in the host cells becoming more easily infected and give the bacteria a better chance to survive outside the host cell."

The paper is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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Written by: Nhx Tingson

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