The Loh Down On Science

Introducing a new weapon in the fight against bacteria.

King Kong vs. Godzilla?  How about bacteria vs. fungi!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

Saying, if much smaller, their battle is an age-old story.  And, good for us—antibiotics made from penicillium and other fungi have saved countless lives.  

But antibiotics ain’t what they used to be.  Many bacteria are becoming drug-resistant.  Diseases like staph and tuberculosis are making scary comebacks. 

Luckily, bacteria have another enemy:  bacteriophages, also known as phages.  These are viruses that only strike bacteria.  Phages commandeer bacteria by injecting their own genetic material, turning the bacteria into virus-making factories. 

Enter Israeli researcher Udi Qimron.  He thought he could use this natural antagonism to create a new class of antibiotics. Specifically, using a phage called T-7 that attacks our old nemesis E. coli.  His still-early results are promising.

So will doctors inject us with live viruses?  Nope.  A single protein will do.  Qimron and his colleagues isolated one from T-7 that shuts down E. coli cell division.  If it can’t divide, it can’t survive—and can't colonize us.

Making for a very boring action movie.  Thank goodness.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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