With antibiotic resistance rising, scientists think bacteriophages — which hunt and kill bacteria — could cure bacterial infections.
Bacteriophages: Anti-bacterial guard dogs
- The vast majority of viruses inside us are bacteriophages viruses that kill bacteria in our microbiomes.
- Bacteriophages, also known as phages, are harmless to human cells as they do not recognize them as their bacterial prey.
- They work by hunting down bacteria and attaching themselves to the surface of a bacterial cell, before injecting viral DNA material into the cell.
- The viral DNA then replicates inside the bacteria, sometimes by borrowing the DNA replication hardware of the bacteria.
- Once enough new viruses have been created inside the bacterial cell, the cell then bursts to release the new viral particles.
- All this takes just 30 minutes, meaning one virus can become many in a couple of hours.
- For now, bacteriophages are unlikely to replace antibiotics.
- But scientists are optimistic they could be used in combination to make antibiotics more effective, especially against resistant strains of bacteria.
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