Can a bacteriophage infect a human cell?

Can a bacteriophage infect a human cell?

It's an intriguing question that has scientists scratching their heads over the possibility of these "minute guys" (phages) wreaking havoc on our bodies. This same question would be asked by someone who wants to know if phages are safe for humans, especially when used as a treatment alternative. Concerns about their safety when used live (without attenuation) never left the minds of those in charge of approving drugs for human/animal use. For so long, this has been a nightmare for phage-based pharmaceutical companies, but rules are finally allowing many phage products to enter the market.
Bacteriophages ca not affect human cell
Bacteriophages can not infect human cells. ©Raphael Hans Lwesya 

Bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, have resurfaced as powerful regulators of bacterial populations in natural ecosystems. Phages infiltrate the human body in the same way that they do other natural environments, to the point where they are the most numerous in the human virome. Despite the fact that phages in the human body have been reported for decades, this was only revealed in recent metagenomic studies. The impact of phage presence in humans has yet to be determined. Still, as in marine environments, a clear role in regulating bacterial populations is possible, which could have an impact on human health.
Furthermore, phages are excellent vehicles for genetic transfer, and they aid in the evolution of bacterial cells in the human body by horizontally spreading and acquiring DNA. The abundance of phages in the human body does not go unnoticed, and the immune system reacts to them, though to what extent is unknown. Finally, unnoticed phage presence in human samples can influence and bias microbiological and molecular results. Given the evidence, some studies suggest that their interference requires more attention.

What type of bacteria do bacteriophages infect?

Despite bacteriophages' specificity in infecting a specific species of host bacteria, there are no known bacteria that do not have phages to infect them. Bacteria evolve to resist attacks, whereas bacteriophages, as living entities, evolve new attack strategies.

Is there a possibility of a bacteriophage infecting human cells?

Human cells are not infected by bacteriophages. As a result, they cannot infect humans. They only infect bacteria that are specific to them. Your immune system efficiently removes the bacteriophages from your system once they have destroyed all of the bacteria they have infected. Bacteriophages are self-limiting and harmless to humans;. However, they may indirectly cause undesired activities like transferring antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) from one bacteria to another, driven mainly by lysogenic phages.

What is the role of bacteriophages and the human microbiome?

The bacteriophage ("phage") is a virus that eats bacteria; however, a better term would be natural bacteria predator. Phages can be found in all types of microbial environments. The conflict between phages and bacteria dates back to the dawn of life. Bacteriophages are very picky about the bacteria they attack. Because of this selectivity, phages can eliminate a specific type of harmful bacteria while leaving all other bacteria alone, with no known side effects on the human body.

The majority of the viral population in the human gut microbiome is made up of phages. Caudovirales are the most common order of bacteriophages found in the gut microbiota. The order is made up of three families of lytic viruses that attack specific types of bacteria and archaea: Myoviridae (long contractile tails), and Siphoviridae (long non-contractile tails), and Podoviridae (short non-contractile tails) (short non-contractile tails).

The viral component of the gut microbiota has received a lot of attention in the last decade. Bacteriophages used in supplements in the United States; LH01-Myoviridae, LL5-Siphorviridae, T4D-Myoviridae, and LL12-Myoviridae were selected primarily to target pathogenic Escherichia coli strains. Because of the selective nature of phage preference for bacteria targeting, a non-invasive approach to therapy is possible. Scientists can isolate bacteriophages that are effective against pathogenic bacteria, and the treatment is completely safe for both the human body and the existing beneficial bacteria.

Immune system, gut microbiome, and phages

The viral component of the gut microbiota has received a lot of attention in the last decade. Bacteriophages used in supplements in the United States; LH01-Myoviridae, LL5-Siphorviridae, T4D-Myoviridae, and LL12-Myoviridae were selected primarily to target pathogenic Escherichia coli strains. Because of the selective nature of phage preference for bacteria targeting, a non-invasive approach to therapy is possible. Scientists can isolate bacteriophages that are effective against pathogenic bacteria, and the treatment is completely safe for both the human body and the existing beneficial bacteria.

The study of the effects of bacteriophages on the human immune system is also expanding. While some studies show that phages can have a negative impact on the immune system, others show that bacteriophages can strengthen the system. It is important to note that bacteriophages are not all classified in the same way. The distinction between virulent and temperate phages is critical to understand. It directly reflects whether bacteriophages contribute to the immune system's health or cause harm.

By nature, temperate phages or bacteriophages that use lysogeny use the bacterium as a host organism and have their unique symbiotic relationship. They will do whatever it takes to keep their host safe and protected from invasion and, ultimately, death. Some studies show that this defensive mechanism can also assist bacterial biofilm formation. It is only when the prophage (embedded phage in the bacterium's DNA) finds that all hope is lost for the host's survival that it can switch to the lytic cycle, bursting out of the bacterium to survive.

Lytic bacteriophages or virulent phages utilize the lysis of the bacterium and are used in phage therapy. Their mechanism is more straightforward; they target the bacterium, insert their genetic material, and rapidly multiply within the bacterium, ultimately killing the host by bursting out of the organism and releasing the newly formed phages. Positive immunomodulating effects were seen in studies that used lytic phages to treat bacterial infections, such as Escherichia virus T4, a phage from the subfamily of Tevenvirinae from the family of Myovirinae.

Probiotics, prebiotic & bacteriophages

Many people today recognize probiotics as supplements that deliver beneficial bacteria to our microbiome. These bacteria become a part of the gut ecosystem, joining the symbiotic relationship of our gut microbiota, and in turn, contribute to our overall health. One of the most serious concerns about probiotics is the amount found in supplements. For a long time, it was assumed that the more bacteria found in a probiotic supplement, the more likely these bacteria will survive the journey to the gut microbiome and thrive in their new environment. However, the quantity may not be as important as the nutritional conditions that allow that bacteria to thrive once it reaches the gut. This is where the inclusion of prebiotics comes into play.

Prebiotics, a relatively new supplement on the market, have been recognized for their importance in sustaining and growing beneficial bacteria in the microbiome. Many fermented foods contain prebiotics, which are nutritional elements on which probiotics feed. A combination of prebiotics and probiotics increases the likelihood of beneficial bacteria thriving in the microbiome. Beneficial bacteria require nutrients that allow them to develop in order to multiply and remain in the gut. Prebiotics meet that nutritional requirement, resulting in stable and healthy gut microbiota.

Bacteriophages' distinct nature allows for a specific, non-invasive approach that contributes to the overall health of the gut microbiota and immune system. Lytic phages can be carefully chosen from phage libraries to target resistant bacteria known to invade and disrupt the human gut microbiota while leaving all other bacteria alone, with no known side effects to the body. Bacteriophages can also aid in the restoration of balance to the human gut microbiome caused by the pathogenic microbe.

Some complex supplements, such as Terraflora Advanced Care prepared by enviromedica (The phage has no association or affiliation with the enviromedica), are already on the market and claim to provide a three-pronged approach to stabilizing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Bacteriophages that have been carefully selected target harmful gut bacteria, while probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut microbiota. Prebiotics provide enough nutrition for beneficial bacteria to survive and thrive in a healthy gut microbiome.

Phages are truly stunning, and the way they reproduce is fascinating. A phage binds to a bacterium and injects its DNA into the cell. The bacterium then transforms into a phage factory, producing up to 100 new phages before bursting and releasing the phages to attack other bacteria. This means that phages can multiply much faster than bacteria. Phages are used to treat bacterial infections in some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. Because each phage can only infect and kill one type of bacteria, if a doctor knows which bacteria is infecting a patient, it may be possible to give the patient a phage that can infect and kill that type of bacteria.

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