The SIRV2, a virus infecting a certain microbial species, is thought to be a potential candidate to tackle diseases brought about by harmful spores, like those causing anthrax. The researchers found similarities between SIRV2 and these spores, which are able to resist high acidity; they believe the virus might be used to gain knowledge as to how to destroy the pathogens.
Image of SIRV2 particles captured by microscope. Photo credits: Nicole Steinmetz et al.
Scientists of a new study published in the journal Science suggest that a virus able to resist boiling acid might be used to combat diseases, including anthrax. The SIRV2 virus infects microorganisms known as Sulfolobus islandicus that themselves live in acidic hot springs reaching till 79 degrees Celsius. The researchers discovered that the SIRV2 is very similar to spores found in hospitals and other places. Certain species of these spores are known to be harmful to humans.
“Some of these spores are responsible for very, very horrific diseases that are hard to treat, like anthrax. So we show in this paper that this virus actually functions in a similar way to some of the proteins present in bacterial spores,” said Edward Egelman of the UVA Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.
Egelman believes that gaining understanding of these bacterial spores will hopefully reveal how to get rid of them.
“Understanding how these bacterial spores work gives us potentially new abilities to destroy them,” Egelman said. “Having this basic scientific research leads in many, many directions, most of which are impossible to predict, in terms of what the implications are going to be.”
The researchers think the virus can be used to tackle disease caused by the microorganisms by making use of DNA. It was found to be able to survive harsh conditions by turning its DNA into an “A-form”, a structure which allegedly provides it with protection to withstand adversity.
“We’ve discovered what appears to be a basic mechanism of resistance – to heat, to desiccation, to ultraviolet radiation. And knowing that, then, we can go in many different directions, including developing ways to package DNA for gene therapy.”
“What’s interesting and unusual is being able to see how proteins and DNA can be put together in a way that’s absolutely stable under the harshest conditions imaginable,” said Egelman.
It is to be noted that A-form DNA is generally thought to occur only in dehydrated DNA samples. However, the researchers indicate that it might be a means of protecting the DNA. Explaining this point of view, Egelman said:-
“This is, I think, going to highlight once again the contributions she made, because many people have felt that this A-form of DNA is only found in the laboratory under very non-biological conditions, when DNA is dehydrated or dry. Instead, it appears to be a general mechanism in biology for protecting DNA.”