The Deadliest Being on Planet Earth – The Bacteriophage

by birtanpublished on September 3, 2020

A war has been raging for billions of years killing trillions every single day while we don't even notice the war is fought by the single deadliest entity on our planet the bacteriophage or phage for short

a phage is a virus not quite alive not quite dead also they look as if someone made them up their head is an icosahedron a sort of dice with 20 faces and 30 edges

It contains the genetic material of the virus and often sits on a long tail that has lead-like fibers there are more phages on earth than every other organism combined including bacteria and they are probably

Everywhere living things exist billions are on your hands in your intestines and your eyelids right now which might make you nervous since phages are responsible for the

Majority of deaths on earth but you're lucky while they do commit genocide for breakfast they only kill bacteria up to 40 percent of all bacteria in the oceans are killed by them every single day

But phages also have major flaws like any other virus phages need a host to survive and reproduce they're not much more than genetic material in a hull and they specialize

Usually a phage has chosen one specific bacteria and maybe some of its very close relatives these are its prey imagine a phage as like a cruise missile that only hunts

And kills members of one very unlucky family when a phage finds its victim it connects its tail fibers with receptors and uses a sort of syringe to puncture the surface

In a weird motion the phage squeezes its tail and injects its genetic information within minutes the bacteria is taken over it's now forced to manufacture

All the parts of new phages they only stop when the bacteria is filled up with brand new phages in the final step they produce endolysin a powerful enzyme that punches a hole in the bacteria

The pressure is so high that the bacteria sort of vomits out all of its insides and dies new phages are released and begin the cycle anew in the last few years bacteriophages

Have enjoyed the attention of the second deadliest beings on earth humans recently we've started looking into injecting millions of them into our bodies because we're sort of getting desperate

We screwed up in the past a single cut or a sip from the wrong puddle could kill you bacteria were our phages tiny monsters that hunted us mercilessly but then about 100 years ago we found a

Solution in nature by accident we found fungi that produced a compound that killed bacteria antibiotics suddenly we had a powerful superweapon antibiotics was so effective that we

Stopped thinking of bacteria as monsters only the old and weakest among us were killed by them we used antibiotics more and more for less and less serious causes we lost respect for the monsters and the

Weapon but bacteria are living things that evolve and one by one they started to become immune against our weapons this continued until we had created what

Are called superbugs bacteria immune to almost everything we have this immunity is spreading across the world as we speak by 2050 superbugs could kill more humans a year

Than cancer the days when a cut or bladder infection or a cough could kill you or your loved ones are coming back in the u.s alone more than 23 000 people die from

Resistant bacteria each year but it turns out that phages our tiny killer virus robots could save us we can inject them into our bodies to help cure infections hold on how can injecting millions of

Viruses into an infection be a good idea phages are very very specialized killers of bacteria so specialized in fact that humans are completely immune to them we are too different we encounter

Billions of phages every day and we just politely ignore each other antibiotics are like carpet bombing killing everything even the good bacteria in our intestines that we don't want to harm

Phages are like guided missiles that only attack what they're supposed to wait a minute if we use phages to kill bacteria won't bacteria develop ways of defending themselves

Well it's more complex than that phages evolve too there has been an arms race between them and bacteria for billions of years and so far they're doing great this makes phages

Smart weapons that are constantly getting better at killing but even if bacteria were to become immune against our phage we still might be able to win it turns out

That in order to become resistant to even just a few species of phages bacteria have to give up their resistance to antibiotics we might be able to trap them in a catch-22

This has already been successfully tested with a patient who had no other hope left the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa one of the most feared bacteria infected the man's chest cavity

They are naturally resistant to most antibiotics and can even survive an alcoholic hand gel after years of suffering a few thousand phages were directly inserted into his chest cavity

Together with antibiotics the bacteria were immune to after a few weeks the infections had completely disappeared unfortunately this treatment is still experimental and

Pharma companies are still reluctant to invest the necessary billions in a treatment that has no official approval yet but things are finally changing in 2016 the largest phage clinical trial to date

Began and phages are getting more and more attention and we better get used to it because the era in which antibiotics have been our super weapon

Is drawing to a close it might be a weird concept but injecting the deadliest being on planet earth directly into our bodies could save millions of lives this video was made possible by a grant

From the bill and melinda gates foundation if you'd like to support kurzgesagt you can do so on patreon.com and get fancy things in return

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