Finding Genius Podcast
Bacteria and Virus Interactions: Understanding Microbes with Alejandro Reyes Muñoz
Apr 15, 2020 · 39 min
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Computational biologist Dr. Reyes discusses the basics of bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) and bacteria interactions as well as current research. He covers

  • How the majority of viruses and bacteria interactions are mutually beneficial, in what way, and why;
  • What makes a phage move on to other bacteria, what it takes with it, and what effect that has; and
  • How this particular strain of coronavirus is an RNA virus, what that tells us about how it works, and what it may take to get a vaccine.

Alejandro Reyes Muñoz is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at La Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. He has investigated the importance of gut health and the interactions of microbes in the gut. In this podcast, he discusses phage-host interactions. He explains to listeners that it is important to consider the biodiversity of all the different environments that exist for bacteria, including the human gut. 

He explains why the question "what is a virus/host interaction like" is a very complex one. He adds that there are many different ways in which a virus and host need to interact to get to the point of a successful infection. Furthermore, he comments that the worst thing a pathogen can do to itself is to kill a host quickly. He describes more about this complicated and active relationship that has created a city-like architecture of microbes in the human gut, elucidating the importance of gut health. He also explains how genetic material is exchanged between the two and why each gains various benefits and what they are.

He also addresses the coronavirus strain we currently are facing and discusses what scientist have observed about its mutation rate as well as the type of virus it is and what that implies about its behavior. Reyes also tells listeners about the complexity of understanding genomes and while scientists may sequence a virus genome, they can't predict what about 70% of that genome codes for. Finally, he describes his current work as developing computational methods to id some of the genes that those phages are coding for. 

For more information about the coronavirus sequencing, he directs listeners to a phylogenetic tree available at https://nextstr ain.org/ncov/global

For more about the work of Alejandro Reyes Muñoz, see his lab website at https://bcem.uniandes.edu.co/bcem-lab/areyes.html

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