Bacteria-infecting viruses, generally thought to be harmful to their hosts, can also be surprisingly beneficial.
A pea aphid
Image: Wikipedia
A bacteriophage infecting a bacterium living in the cells and body cavity of a small, plant-eating insect protects the insect from attack by a deadly wasp predator, reports a study published online in Science today (August 20). The discovery may help create more effective methods of pest control, the authors say. "This is a wonderful paper," linkurl:Christoph Vorburger,; an ecologist at the University of Zurich, told The Scientist. "It is important because it shows clearly that genetic elements such as bacteriophages are vehicles for transmitting resistance to predators," added Vorburger, who was not involved in the study. Small insects called pea aphids are parasitized by a species of wasp, Aphidus ervi. The wasp injects its eggs into the aphids, and the eggs develop, pupating and eventually killing the...
Hamiltonella defensaHamiltonellaCorrection (August 21): The original version of this article incorrectly referred to Kerry Oliver as female. The Scientist regrets the error.

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