The main stimulus for The Invisible War came from an article by Jeremy Barr “Bacteriophage adhering to mucus provide a non–host-derived immunity”, published in the prestigious US journal PNAS in June 2013.
Here, Jeremy, along with group leader Forest Rohwer, writer Merry Youle and other co-authors described a mutual symbiosis between mucus-producing (animal) “host” with their phage partners – where the virus partner limits mucosal bacteria, while the animal host presents new bacterial hosts in the mucus for the phage to reproduce.
The enemy of my enemy is a phage
Widely hailed as the discovery of a new immune system, we knew we had to speak to Jeremy Barr about the potential to describe this newly symbiotic relationship as a story in our series. We were overwhelmed by Jeremy’s enthusiasm about collaborating to communicate this discovery as widely as possible.
Jeremy also had an implicit understanding about the power of using narrative to engage people in a topic, something at the heart of our mission. One of our extra incentives for creating this particular story was the challenge of writing a story with a virus as a hero…something we hadn’t anticipated at the start of our process of creating Small Friends stories!