We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Bacteriophage?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A bacteriophage is a virus which infects bacteria. These viruses typically cause their hosts to die as a result of infection, which makes bacteriophages of great interest to the medical community and to scientists who cultivate bacteria. In industries where bacteria are harnessed to perform tasks such as the fermentation of foods or the production of useful chemicals, contamination with bacteriophages is a major source of concern, as the viruses can bring a process to a complete halt.

Humans have been aware of the action of bacteriophages for centuries. Many observers noted historically that consuming water from certain places seemed to confer protection against disease. This water was teeming with bacteriophages which could attack the bacteria causing the disease, although these observers were not aware of this fact. Over time, people began to wonder what it was about waters such as those found in the River Ganges that provided protection from disease, and bacteriophages were discovered.

These viruses can contain DNA or RNA, along with proteins which can match to specific receptors on target bacteria. Because their receptors are customized to match up with particular proteins, bacteriophages generally infect only closely related bacteria, leaving others alone because they lack the ability to infect them. When a bacteriophage finds a bacterium with proteins which match its receptors, it can insert DNA or RNA into the bacterium and direct the organism to start producing replicas of the virus.

In the process of replicating the bacteriophage, many bacteria will experience lysis, in which they break up or dissolve, literally exploding as they become overloaded with viruses. Others may be able to survive the replication process, but they will eventually be prone to other problems which inhibit reproduction, effectively killing off the bacteria.

Phage therapy, or deliberate introduction of bacteriophages to the bodies of patients with bacterial infections, has been suggested in some regions of the world as a method which could be used to treat disease. Treatment with phages could also potentially address the issue of antibiotic resistance, as a bacteriophage can still lock on to a bacterium which has developed resistance to antibiotic medications.

These tiny viruses appear to be among the most common viruses in the world, and they can be found everywhere. This is perhaps not surprising, since bacteria can also be found everywhere, and the ability to prey on bacteria would ensure that a bacteriophage had a steady supply of victims.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By vogueknit17 — On Jul 15, 2011

I think I saw these in a biology textbook at some point, but I forgot what they were called. Looking them up now, I remember the bacteriophage structure looked like sort sort of alien space ship. It's hard to believe they have been around forever, but maybe that's how people felt when humans first discovered germs at all.

By sherlock87 — On Jul 15, 2011

@afterall- I had heard that too, that viruses are not alive. But it seems to be a big debate, because articles in magazines and encyclopedias often talk about the bacteriophage "life cycle", or refer to viruses as microbes, even though they don't have all the aspects of a living thing.

By afterall — On Jul 14, 2011

I learned about how a bacteriophage works in high school and college biology. It was really fascinating because they still seem to stump scientists. Viruses don't technically seem to be "alive", but they can still do things like carry DNA and destroy bacteria, which technically are alive. I always thought it was sort of scary, really.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.