Date of Award

Spring 5-2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Honors College



First Advisor

Bryan A. Lewis

Second Advisor

Joyce W. O'Rourke

Third Advisor

Beverly Wade


Bacteria resistant to most or all available antibiotics are causing increasingly serious problems and raising widespread fears of returning to a pre-antibiotic era of untreatable infections and epidemics. Despite intensive work by drug companies, no new classes of antibiotics have been found in the last 30 years . There are hopes that the newfound ability to sequence entire microbial genomes and to determine the molecular bases of pathogenicity will open new avenues for treating infectious disease, but other approaches are also being sought with increasing fervor. One result is a renewed interest in the possibilities of bacteriophage (phage) therapy - the harnessing of a specific kind of viruses that attack only bacteria to kill pathogenic microorganisms. Bacteriophages are bacterial viruses. They are viruses that infect specific bacteria and destroy them. A bacteriophage virus infects a host bacterial cell by attaching itself to the surface of a bacterial cell and then injecting its viral nucleic acid into the cell. Hundreds of new bacteriophage virus particles are then formed within the bacterial cell as the virus replicates itself. The bacterial cell is then destroyed, releasing the new bacteriophage viruses to infect other bacterial cells. The process is repeated within the bacterial cell population about every 20 minutes until the bacteria are eliminated. This paper is written primarily to put phage therapy in a historical and ecological context; to explore the roles of bacteriophages in maintaining microbial ecology; and in helping to deal with the growing crisis in antibiotic resistant microbes.

Included in

Chemistry Commons