Chapter 17 : Our Most Abundant Coterrestrials

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Viruses are currently realized as the most abundant biological entities on the planet, with activities considerably more profound than the pioneer virologists ever imagined. Following indications in 2001 to 2003 of the importance of lytic phages in the environment, Shah Faruque of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, explored the dynamics of their interaction with during the entire course of an epidemic in Dhaka. The results showed not only that the peak of the epidemic was preceded by high 10 prevalence in the environment, but that this was followed by high environmental levels of a phage, JSF4, to which the bacterium was sensitive. Meanwhile, at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Nicola Petty and colleagues have been extending the understanding of how prophages influence the virulence, evolution, and diversity of bacterial pathogens. While annotating the newly sequenced genome of the mouse pathogen Citrobacter rodentium, they identified six prophage-like elements, some of which proved to be active phages. Cyanobacteria have been recognized for many years as key members of phytoplankton populations, in both the seas and freshwater. Now, increasing evidence is showing the importance of cyanophages, and of lateral gene transfer, in regulating the structure and evolution of cyanobacterial communities. Beyond the historical perspective on viruses solely as agents of death and disease, beyond even the emerging awareness of their manifold global roles, viruses could have "invented" DNA.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. Our Most Abundant Coterrestrials, p 79-82. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch17
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