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Today, we'll explore - obtaining new drugs - from viruses?

Usually, when someone mentions viruses, we cringe - remembering the last time we had the flu, or infections with the chicken pox or shingles. Perhaps even scarier, we think about emerging viruses such as Ebola which could be used in biological attacks.

Viruses are arguably the most diverse group of organisms on earth. Essentially all plants and animals have viruses which infect them and make their lives miserable! Even single cell organisms such as bacteria are afflicted by viruses.

Many times, a bacterial virus only attacks a specific bacterial type. For example, there is a virus that only infects salmonella. And when they do, they replicate themselves and rip apart the bacterial cell.

In a clever piece of biological engineering, the virus produces a specific protein called lysin that destroys the bacterial cell to release replicated viruses. Now this is where it gets interesting. In some innovative experiments, scientists have isolated these viral proteins and are developing them as new antibiotic.

These lysins have remarkable properties. One lysin protein molecule can kill a disease-causing bacterium in seconds. Importantly, they are also non-toxic in humans and animals and do not interfere with our immune system. These lysins represent a whole new class of antibacterial drugs.

Scientists are evaluating lysins against bacteria that cause strep throat, pneumonia, anthrax and even flesh eating bacteria. The hope is several will be safe and effective in humans.

Many appear promising. In some exciting recent clinical trials, bacterial growths on human heart valves were completely removed using lysins injected from a heart catheter. We've come a long way from the fear and loathing of viruses to exploit the lysins of these "good viruses".

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What are phages and how do they "work"? Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that infect bacteria. Typical phages have hollow heads (where the phage DNA or RNA is stored) and tunnel tails, the tips of which have the ability to bind to specific molecules on the surface of their target bacteria.
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The Soviet Method for Attacking Infection that We can Learn From. In the 1920s and '30s, with diseases like dysentery and cholera running rampant, the discovery of bacteriophages was hailed as a breakthrough. Bacteriophages are viruses found virtually everywhere-from soil to seawater to your intestines-that kill specific, infection-causing bacteria.
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A summary of the contributions of Antony van Leeuwenhoek to the development of the microscope and his discoveries using his devices.
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Set a Microbe to Kill a Microbe: Drug Resistance Renews Interest in Phage Therapy JAMA. 2003;290:3183-3185. As Gary Schoolnik, MD, was growing up during the late 1940s in Seattle, he had his first memorable encounter with a virus.
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New Bacterial Defense Against Phage Invaders Identified Humans are not alone in having to fend off pathogens; even the simplest organisms are under a constant threat of invasion. Bacteria, for example, are awash in a sea of viruses known as bacteriophages.
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