Virus-bacterium associations were examined in the natural environment of a termite's hindgut. Three general scenarios were seen. In the first (1) there was a one-to-one association: one type of virus matched one type of bacterium host. In the second (2) the host bacterium was associated with a diverse group of viruses, indicating perhaps a more ancient infection or a more susceptible host. In the third case (3) very similar viruses were seen infecting several different types of bacterial hosts.
This study tested methods of examining virus-bacterium interactions in nature, rather than in vitro--from a culture. It opens a new door to understanding the diverse and highly populated world of viruses and bacteria that we know so little about. To learn more, see NSF press release "When Viruses Infect Bacteria." (http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=120974&org=NSF&from=news)
Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation