Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Micro: Viruses Save Us from Evil Bacteria

Viruses are probably the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. Ask someone on the street what a virus is, what a virus does-- and theyll universally say "Viruses make us sick."

UGH! Not ALL of them! Bacteria have better PR. More people know that there are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract, eyes, skin, etc and keep us healthy and keep the yeast out of our vaginae. Well viruses do similar things! There are viruses called 'phages' whos natural habitat is your digestive tract (no, youre not special, theyre in all mammals' digestive tracts) that kill bad E. coli. You know, those 'bad' E. coli that were in the news a while back, hiding in spinach? That 'bad' E. coli that makes you poop all over the place when you drink the water in Mexico? The 'bad' E. coli that kills a few million kids a year.

Phages are the sweet lunar-lander viruses:

Sweet. Anyway, they only effect bacteria. They dont hurt you. Theyre a natural part of your bodys ecosystem. Hmm. Can we use these 'phage' things to our advantage? Can we use phages to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria??

Yes! Heres a nice little review I found, and its available free online!
'Phage therapy: the Escherichia coli experience'

I like this review because it covers the basics that any scientist or lay person would want to know:
1. Why do we want to use phages as antibacterials?
2. Is phage therapy safe?
3. What organisms have we tried phage therapy on? Humans? What happened?
4. What are the pharmacokinetics of phage therapies?
5. Will the phages hurt 'good' bacteria? I dont want an itchy vagina.
6. Why wont bacteria just develop resistance to phages, just like they did to our antibiotics?

Its an old idea, but its been gaining ground again lately because of the emergence of so many bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Resistant and deadly. Cant wait to see what we can do to a 70 year old idea with the molecular genetic technology of today!

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