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Can viruses kill other diseases ?

Marty & Gail Hewlett hewlett at azstarnet.com
Fri Aug 25 10:35:02 EST 1995

linehan at ceph.cephb.fr (Paul Linehan) wrote:
>I think that in the 20's or thereabouts people had just that idea, i.e. that
>bacteriophage (bacteria infecting viruses) should be able to eliminate
>bacterial disease. Unfortunately this turned out not to be true.
>Why, wild guess.... bacteriophages are designed to get around bacterial defence
>mechanisms, not those of mamallian hosts.

In fact, the reason that this did not work for the case of the bateriophage is because the bacteria in question (e.g., E. coli) can mutate quite readily to be resistant to the virus.  Phage-resistant mutants (E. coli B/4, for example) were some of the first variants examined during the early days of molecular biology.

An interesting side note is that a relatively well-known novel of the time featured a main charatcter who, as a physician, was working on just this problem.  The book:  "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis.

Martin Hewlett
Dept. of Molec. and Cell. Biol.
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

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