The European Research Council (ERC) has granted EUR 2.2 million in funding towards the project PHAGECONTROL – The evolution of host manipulation by bacteriophage. This project is led by Anna Dragoš, a prominent researcher in the field of virus-bacteria interaction from the Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana.
From the full grant, approximately EUR 700,000 is to be allocated towards a precision microscope. It will be used in the study of viruses entering bacteria and monitoring the changes of the properties of the bacteria due to the virus inserting viral DNA into the bacterial DNA.
“We will study how viruses can change the behavior of bacteria in the first phase, the second phase will cover the molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes, and in the third phase, we will test whether viruses change the behavior of bacteria because they are cooperating or because they are manipulators,” Dragoš explained.
Some of these altered properties in bacteria may be beneficial for humans, whilst others may not be. The project PHAGECONTROL will help establish new methods and new molecular tools to study virus transmission. This could also be used towards the improvement of predictions of the spread of epidemics in the future.
“There is great potential in this project to discover a significant part of the genetic ‘black box’ of viruses, as well as new antimicrobial compounds carried by viruses. These could eventually find medical applications, for example as alternatives to antibiotics,” she added.