Researchers just discovered that a form of bacteriophage can communicate with other bacteriophages. The virus is called phi3T. It has two different ways that it can infect a host—either it enters and begins replication immediately until the cell is burst and dies, or it can inject genetic material into the host’s genome and stay dormant until conditions are more optimal.
Insanely, the phi3T bacteriophage has a mechanism to alert other phages as to which route of infection they should follow. It codes for a short protein that has been named arbitrium, this protein leaks out of bacteria after infection and cell death. When high amounts of arbitrium are present in the environment, phi3T has two proteins that identify arbitrium and change the course of its replication cycle. Instead of immediately replicating and causing bacteria death, it opts for the second option and lies dormant. It seems that this virus has developed a clever way to evade total host die-out. Although this is the first of its type, researchers believe it’s likely that other viruses have chemical messages that allow them to communicate to one another. Let’s just hope none of them are conspiring against us…
Humans and Viruses 16-17