Basic History and Structure

So I am now about to post my first post, yay! I’ve had a bit of a shocking week in class this week (assignment brain) so this week I’m going to be fab. I’ve had some bad luck in the lab with none of my sample giving me phages, but I’ve adopted some (which came from some of the same sources mine did but with more luck, grumble grumble) and hopefully have isolated the beauties.

Anyway I decided that I shall blog some interesting stuff on the history and structure of bacteriophages, which have been theorized about longer than I thought!

Around the 1890s scientists had discovered that some invisible unknown thing was limiting the growth of bacteria, but thought it was a type of virus (bacteriophages are in a way a sort of special virus that attack bacteria, but are different from normal viruses). This research was halted by World War I, but not long after a French-Canadian man called Félix d’Hérelle also found this invisible thing, but was certain that it was parasite to bacteria, and called it a bacteriophage, meaning phage eater.

There are a lot of different types of phage, at least one for every type of bacteria! However each one consists of a capsid (basically its body) and most contain a tail. The capsid is made up of one or more proteins, which protects the nucleic acid (the bacteriophage version of DNA). The tail is a hollow tube which connects to a bacterial cell and through which the nucleic acid goes to get into the bacterial cell. Some bacteriophages have special complex features such as tails fibres that allow them to grasp the host bacteria cell better.

There is more information from the source including some other interesting things on phages, such as phage therapy.

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One Response to Basic History and Structure

  1. Sophie P says:

    It’s really interesting that the Soviet Union and Georgia used Phages as an alternative to antibiotics from around 1920 – almost 100 years ago, but because the papers about their use were written in foreign journals their usefulness was largely unknown in Western Europe.
    For a little more background information, the first documented cases of phage therapy were to treat bacterial dysentery and staphylococcal skin disease. It was also used as a treatment for the bubonic plague – just imagine how popular they would have been in Western Europe if this was more widely known!
    After antibiotics were discovered, production of commercial phage therapy diminished, only continuing in parts of Eastern Europe.


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