Bdellovibrio are natural, tiny predatory bacteria that exploit other bacteria as their main food. Their strategy is to break into bacterial cells, close up the hole behind them suck their guts out! Having dissolved the inside of their victim, they burst out in search of fresh prey. Dr Liz Sockett studies Bdellovibrio at the University of Nottingham...
Chris - What has the genetic information told you, and how can they be used in fighting infection?
Liz - We found that Bdellovibrio have lots of genes that make bacteria-dissolving enzymes. They also secrete a juice that breaks down chromosomes. These will both kill bacteria. Bdellovibrio don't look for any specific target sites on their bacteria prey, so there is no way for the bacteria to hide. Unfortunately, Bdellovibrio can't get into MRSA, but they can get into many others. We hope to use them on things like burns and leg ulcers, although more testing needs to be carried out. We might even be able to take genes and put them in the bacteria so they can attack MRSA.
Chris - What happens when the infection has cleared up?
Liz - If the Bdellovibrio burst out of the dead bacterium and can't find any more food, they just die. This makes it a self-terminating therapy that leaves no residue. They are likely to be best for wound infections, as eating them will kill good and bad stomach bacteria, and they also end up going down the loo [with unforeseen consequences].