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Are Phages the Answer?

The emergence of multiple drug-resistant bacterial strains, the prevalence of recalcitrant biofilm configurations, and the reluctance of the pharmaceutical industry to initiate new antibiotic discovery programs have led to the development of a formidable population of bacterial pathogens that is increasingly difficult to control. After a long but successful era of research that had all but eliminated serious threats from bacterial infections, we are now facing this dire problem once again. In response, researchers have recently been exploring alternative approaches to antibiotic therapy including identifying chemical agents that antagonize quorum sensing and thus prevent population-wide expression of virulence genes, as well as employing either intact bacteriophages or their isolated lysins to directly kill their pathogenic bacterial hosts. Lysins kill Gram-positive bacteria by hydrolyzing the peptidoglycan in the cell wall, thereby causing cell lysis. Gram-negative bacteria are immune to their action because their outer membrane does not allow the lysins access to their peptidoglycan. I will now summarize two recent papers that use intact phages to combat two important bacterial pathogens, both in vitro and in vivo.

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