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Looking at the positive side of Viruses

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    25th Oct, 2021

Context

Though Viruses have a bad reputation (responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic), there are few things to celebrate about them. There is, at least for one specific type of virus — namely, bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria.

About

What is Bacteriophages (or phages)?

  • Bacteriophages, or phages for short, keep bacterial populations in check, both on land and at sea.
  • They kill up to 40 per cent of the oceans’ bacteria every day, helping control bacterial blooms and redistribution of organic matter.
  • Their ability to selectively kill bacteria also has medical doctors excited.
  • Natural and engineered phages have been successfully used to treat bacterial infectionsthat do not respond to antibiotics.
  • This process, known as phage therapy, could help fight antibiotic resistance.
  • Recent researchpoints to another important function of phages: They may be nature’s ultimate genetic tinkerers, crafting novel genes that cells can retool to gain new functions.

What are the types of Phages?

There are two types of Phages:

  • Virulent phages: They operate on an invade-replicate-kill programme. They enter the cell, hijack its components, make copies of themselves and burst out.
  • Temperate phages: They play the long game. They fuse their DNA with the cell’s and may lay dormant for years until something triggers their activation. Then they revert to virulent behaviour: replicate and burst out.
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