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Biologist Jeremy Bar studies the tri-partite symbioses formed between the bacteriophage, the bacterial hosts (prokaryotes), and the eukaryotic human cells. The human microbiota interact in all types of interdependencies from beneficial to harmful to somewhere in between. Dr. Barr offers a lively telling of what we’ve learned about bacteria and viruses as they make their way in the human microbiome.

He discusses

  • Why one virus infection in your gut might start a domino effect among microbes, affecting multiple biological processes,
  • How a recent discovery provides fascinating evidence of quorum sensing among viruses and an ability to coopt bacterial systems to assess the best time to lyse, and
  • How phage will even package bacterial DNA or other molecular information through horizontal gene transfer induction.

Jeremy Barr is the head of the Bacteriophage Biology Research Group and a lecturer at Monash University in Australia. This podcast continues the series of interviews with contributors to Richard’s book on virus behaviors.

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Dr. Barr begins with describing the beginnings of his biology interest as a kid obsessed with insects. When he studied biology in university, bacteriophages seemed to him as the insects of the microbiology world and he was hooked. His unique insight and fascination with lifecycle of bacteriophage lends an entertaining perspective to their discussion, such as a description of his favorite virus, the T4, using its threads to tap on a cell to perhaps sense its fitness for infection.

He also has been involved with numerous recent studies that speak directly to virus characteristics and will broaden listener’s concept of what viruses are capable of. He discusses viruses ability to sense how dense the bacteria population is outside its host cell to maximize their reproductive success and know whether it is better to stay in the cell or lyse.

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He addresses whether he thinks viruses should be considered alive, adding that they are arguably the most successful life forms on the planet and work at the most basal level of life. But, he comments, the argument whether they are or not really doesn’t matter. They are everywhere, he says, transporting genetic material through space and time.

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Listen in to this dynamic conversation to hear more key moments in the bacteriophage life cycle.

Find out more about his work by visiting his lab website.

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