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Virus vs. Superbug–Fight! – Instant Egghead #38

December 21, 2019

People typically associate virus
with diseases, but some viruses are good. They protect our health by killing
the germs that make us sick. Bacteriophages or Phages for short
are the natural enemies of some of our worst enemies. Bacteria. Phages reproduce by injecting their DNA
inside a baterial cell and reprograming its machinery
to make more phages. Once there are hundreds or even thousands
of these daughter phages they burst out of the bacterial cell killing it and scurry off
to find more pray. But phages don’t infect humans. In fact, there are already
millions of bacteriophages living on and inside our bodies. They’re on our skin, in our nasal passages
and in our digestive tract. In 1917, Canadian scientist Felix d’Herelle discovered bacteriophages
could be used as medicine. He traveled the world with vials
of liquid phage cocktails treating cases of bubonic plague, cholera
and disintery in the pre antibiotic era. Once penicillin came along in the 1940’s american pharmaceutical companies
stopped making phages. But doctors in the Soviet Union and Poland
continued to use them for everything from ear infections
to sinus infections to infected wounds. Now that bacteria have started becoming
resistant to antibiotics at alarming rates, pharmaceutical companies
are giving phages a second look. One advantage phages have over antibiotics is that they are highly specific and won’t harm the good microbes
in our bodies. Recently, a clinical trial
showed they work against antibiotic
resistant ear infections. Researchers are also using them to treat
infected wounds in veterans and diabetics and to help stop the spread
of antibiotic resistant infections. Others are genetically engineering phages or using their bacterial killing
components in new drugs. In 2006 the FDA approved the use
of phages as a food additive to kill bacteria like salmonella, listeria
and e-coli in the food supply. So if one day you read the word
bacteriophage on a food label don’t be alarmed. What its really saying is the enemy
of my enemy is my friend. For Scientific American’s Instant Egghead I’m Anna Kuchment.


  • Reply samramdebest May 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm


  • Reply revampted May 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Phages sound cools

  • Reply Rachel Rogers May 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Way to go for the most sensitive and painful veins in the arm.

  • Reply Alex G May 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    If a bacteriophage can put in our food to kill E coli, does that mean that our stomach acid kills the phage before it reaches the E coli we keep in our lower intestine to help with food digestion?

  • Reply UnpredictableSB May 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm


  • Reply ronald7795 May 12, 2013 at 5:19 am

    This is why i failed biology

  • Reply Ben U May 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Here. Have a cookie.

  • Reply samramdebest May 18, 2013 at 10:44 am


  • Reply Celesti Hao September 1, 2013 at 7:02 am

    These instant egghead videos are so good… They should have more views!

  • Reply james miller February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Not all bacteriophages are harmless. This vid shoud be a bit more clear. Cholera and diptheria are both caused by a bacteria being infected by a phage. Viruses are also very unpredictable and mutate easily. I question using them as food additives.

  • Reply Galejro August 22, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I remember my biology teacher calling them "things" because they remain bewteen the realm of living organisms and dead matter. These things are true immortals and the true undead. Outside of the organism they have no metabolism, they have no organella, they don't feed, they don't produce waste and reproduce, they last as long as their chemical structure is stable so they are not bound by lifespan. Only when they introduce their rouge DNA into a cell they take on the metabolism of a cell and remain alive.

  • Reply D4af37 - May 26, 2016 at 1:00 am


  • Reply isaiah monroig January 30, 2017 at 3:25 am

    but can they jump the gap to human cells if we give them to much exposure to us

  • Reply Jack Roblox December 8, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Those Enemy Virus are Lossing Control Like so we can make them back up The Target is the Super Bug

  • Reply Mid Lane Only January 4, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Heres the thing
    Superbugs can gain resistance over Phages, but lose resistance against Antibiotics making it balanced.

  • Reply Tommy July 16, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    1940: Penicillin Kills Bacteria
    1970: First sign of antibiotic immunity
    2000: Superbugs are developing more than ever because people are abusing the use of antibiotics
    Phages: Fine, I'll do it myself

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