By Laura Shin
Posting in Government
When a virus can't infect its target cell, how long does it take for it to evolve to successfully invade it again? A new study has a frightening answer.
When viruses face an obstacle to infecting the cells they normally infect, how long does it take for them to evolve to successfully invade them again? A new study has a frightening answer: just a little more than two weeks.
The study raises more questions and fears about the evolution of viruses just a month after the government asked two scientific journals to halt publication of details about bird flu viruses that were cultivated in the lab to be easily transmitted among humans.
In this latest study, published Thursday in the journal Science, a team of scientists at Michigan State University studied a virus that is harmless to humans, called lambda, which normally infects the bacterium, Escherichia coli.
Normally, lambda gets into E. coli by latching onto a molecule on the bacterium's surface. From there, it injects its won genes and proteins in the microbe.
Justin Meyer, a graduate student in the biology laboratory of Richard Lenski, created a version of E. coli that had almost none of the molecules lambda needs to infect the bacterium, so that very few of the lambda cells could get in.
But within 15 days, the lambda cells had evolved to use a different molecule, called OmpF, to invade E. coli. As the New York Times reports, "Lambda viruses had never been reported to use OmpF before. Mr. Meyer was surprised not just by how fast the change happened, but that it happened at all. “I thought it would be a wild goose chase,” he said. "
To see if the rapid evolution was just an aberration, he did the same test with 96 lines. In 24 of the lines, not only did the viruses all mutated to use OmpF, but they all did so in a series of four mutations. On top of that, in almost all of them, the four mutations were identical.
The Times says,
Some critics have argued that full-blown evolution would not be able to mimic the highly artificial Dutch experiment. The chances that a single virus would acquire so many mutations at once are certainly small. In the case of lambda viruses, Mr. Meyer estimates the chance of all four mutations arising at once is roughly one in a thousand trillion trillion.
Additionally, the virus did not succeed in developing the proper mutation in the majority of cases. Why? As MSNBC reports, the bacteria also mutated, producing a protein on the inner membrane that prevented the virus from entering the cell.
The study shows the potential for us to predict the evolution of viruses and bacteria, plus gives us new insight into how viruses that attack humans, such as the deadly bird flu virus, might evolve.
Watch this video about the study on the lambda virus:
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Government asks journals to censor details on deadly flu virus
- Super flu and antibiotic abuse: no consistency on biosecurity
- Found: Largest virus ever
- Scientists discover 662 new microbes -- in 95 belly buttons
- Genetically engineered mosquitoes to fight disease
Jan 30, 2012
There is a theory that there is a negotiation between species, the extremes are parasites and beneficial life forms. There are parasitic lifeforms that start as a disease with a high fatality and eventually "learn" to not kill the host before finding another host and eventually becoming a minor ailment or even adapt to the host in a way that is beneficial to the host and the parasite. We have E. Coli in our intestines, a beneficial group that helps digest food for us. There are other E.Coli that contaminate food in outbreaks of food poisoning. The best example of biological negotiation are flowering plants and pollinators that co-evolve together. Bees thrive through gathering nectar from flowers, plants thrive because the bees pollinate the plants.
like the man said... the odd of this happening by coincidence (darwinistic evolution) is virtually zero. either that or viruses have a mechanism for hyper-mutation-rate in cases of non-infection.... now how the heck would something like that work... and to think those white-cloaked psychopaths are still working on biological weapons...
Now, why would [u][b]anyone[/b][/u] cultivate bird flu viruses in a lab to be easily transmitted among humans? Idiocy? Stupidity? Brain deficiency? Americanity? Or all of the above? What kind of morality, if any, do these people have?
A very, very fascinating study. It certainly seems like there is something more than just random Darwinian natural selection going on here. How could precisely the same series of 4 mutations, leading to precisely the same evolutionary target configuration, occur just by chance in 24 out of the 96 cell lines? It almost seems as if the evolutionary target configuration that the virus arrived at was somehow known in advance to be the optimum solution, and that the 4 steps to get to that target configuration were taken out AFTER this target configuration had been decided in advance. The idea that some guiding and calculating intelligence may play a role in evolution is known as intelligent design (ID). Intelligent design may be based on some quantum effects that allows evolution to be more than just a random trial and error mechanism as described by Darwinian natural selection. Intelligent design theory posits that these optimum configurations of evolution are pre-calculated in some way. Could the very intriguing results of this study offer some evidence that evolution takes places using Intelligent design, as opposed to (or in addition to) Darwinian natural selection?
There is some tiny bit of intelligence in a virus, it reacts to changes as virus and other forms of life have done for millions of years. No need to bring in a supernatural agent to explain this. Intelligent design is just another form of creationism. You should get the Nova espisode "Intelligent Design on Trial" to see how a court case progressed.
"Non-polynonlynomial" was an error; I meant to write "non-polynomial". What has commercialization got to do with this? Non-polynomial versus polynomial calculations are abstract mathematical concepts, and exist entirely independently of whether you make money from them. Small-scale quantum computers that have only a few qubits have been built and they do work.
First you say that quantum computing is on its way to being technically feasable and then you state that quantum computers find no difficulty at in processing non-polynonlynomial calculations of any size. Until a practical quantum computer has been built and ready for commercial sales then any speculation on its capabilities is vaporware.
Quote: "Intelligent design is just another form of creationism". Well yes, but intelligent design, if it does take place, might be studied by scientific methods. If you look at quantum computing (which is on the way to becoming technologically feasible), the main advantage quantum computation offers is that it can perform non-polynonlynomial calculations within polynomial time. Design optimization problems (like finding the perfect surface shape for an aircraft wing, for example) often involve non-polynonlynomial calculations, which are so computation intensive that regular computers cannot handle them once the problem size gets above a certain point. However, quantum computers find no difficulty at all in processing non-polynonlynomial calculations of any size. Working out the optimum shape and design of a protein is probably going to be a non-polynonlynomial calculation. If evolutionary processes had access to some natural form of quantum computation, and used this to pre-plan and design evolutionary changes to protein shape, then it could certainly said that there is intelligent design behind evolutionary processes. So if we could prove that some computational processes are indeed pre-planning evolutionary changes, it would be reasonable to call this intelligent design. Whether you want to call this intelligent design a "supernatural agent" is more a matter of taste and disposition: believers will say this is the work of God; atheists will say that it is merely a well-undertsood quantum effect. In any case, it remains to be proven whether such intelligent design pre-planning processes take place or not in evolution.