It doesn’t beat or expand greatly as we breathe, like the heart or lungs, respectively, so it can be easy to neglect the all-important functions and status of our largest organ – skin. With the responsibility of defending our bodies from foreign organisms, this significant organ has a complicated job. Adding to this biological complexity is the skin microbiome, or the diverse environment of microorganisms that inhabit the skin’s vast and varied surfaces. By exploring the skin microbiome, researchers have discovered bacteria that can naturally produce antibiotics capable of keeping disease-causing germs in check.
Another week has come and passed, and delivered more news from the frontlines of microbial warfare. Although, instead of viruses and bacteria doing biological battle, a new publication in Nature Communications details how scientists pitted competing bacterial groups against each other and predicted how the conflict would unfold using previously existing physics equations.
Throughout the course of history, countless rivalries, varying in size, duration, and intensity, have been developed and resolved. But one of the oldest and most intense is the evolutionary-spurred conflict between bacteria and bacteriophages (or phages, which are viruses that target bacteria). Despite the longevity of this biological relationship (and because of it), scientists are continuing to discover the mechanisms bacteria use to defend themselves from phage attacks, and those that have evolved in phages to overcome bacterial defenses. It was in the course of studying this interplay that Dr. Rotem Sorek and his colleagues discovered recently a mechanism by which viruses can communicate.