There’s a little wonder of the natural world that doesn’t get a lot of press, even though it could be playing a huge role in your immune system’s health.
It’s a virus called a bacteriophage and, as a first-year science student at Calvin, you could get to know one of these wonders very well.
So well that once you’ve gathered, cultured and isolated a “phage” of your own, you’ll also have a chance to analyze its DNA, gene by gene.
In the process, you’ll be discovering a unique organism that no one has ever seen or studied before, giving it a name and finding out if it can help phage scientists in their research. According to phage course professor John Wertz, you’re going to dive into a field of research that doesn’t even have a textbook because it’s so cutting-edge.
"You see and learn that there isn’t always an answer for something. Basically, you can’t Google this stuff," he said.
The mighty and virtually unheard-of phage
These little viruses are 10 times as prevalent as bacteria in the environment. And that’s important because when they meet up with bacteria—say, in your large intestine—they easily infect the bacteria and either kill them or change them by leaving their DNA behind when they find somewhere else to go.
So why is this research important? It all has to do with your immune system. On the positive side of things, phage could be used to kill bad bacteria in your body in lieu of antibiotics. And since many of the bad bacteria that infect humans are growing resistant to antibiotics, phage therapy could restore health and even save lives.
You see and learn that there isn’t always an answer for something. Basically, you can’t Google this stuff,
On the other side of things, science is closing in on predatory phages as a possible cause of immune disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, where phages are thought to be killing off the good bacteria in your digestive track and causing dysbiosis—an imbalance of good bacteria that leads to a weakened or inflamed immune system.