Bacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth

Posted on April 24, 2008  Comments (2)

photo of bacteriophage

There are more bacteriophages on Earth than any other life-like form. These small viruses are not clearly a form of life, since when not attached to bacteria they are completely dormant. Bacteriophages attack and eat bacteria and have likely been doing so for over 3 billion years. Although initially discovered early last century, the tremendous abundance of phages was realized more recently when it was found that a single drop of common seawater typically contains millions of them. Extrapolating, phages are likely to be at least a billion billion times more numerous than humans. Pictured above is an electron micrograph of over a dozen bacteriophages attached to a single bacterium. Phages are very small — it would take about a million of them laid end-to-end to span even one millimeter. The ability to kill bacteria makes phages a potential ally against bacteria that cause human disease, although bacteriophages are not yet well enough understood to be in wide spread medical use.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Electron micrograph of bacteriophages attached to a bacterial cell. These viruses have the size and shape of coliphage T1.; Insert: Mike Jones

Related: webcast of Bacteriophage T4types of microbesWhat are Viruses?Amazing Science: RetrovirusesUsing Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells

2 Responses to “Bacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » The Amazing Rusting Aluminum
    March 17th, 2009 @ 11:45 am

    “when aluminum rusts, it forms aluminum oxide, an entirely different animal. In crystal form, aluminum oxide is called corundum, sapphire or ruby (depending on the color), and it is among the hardest substances known…”

  2. Bacteriophages Enter Bacteria Using an Iron Tipped Spike » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    March 2nd, 2012 @ 9:36 am

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