The Deadliest Thing on our Planet

by | Jun 7, 2018


Artist rendition of a bacteriophage

The deadliest thing on our planet: the bacteriophage (“phage” for short) which is a virus. They look like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Here’s a diagram of the parts of a phage:


There are more phages on Earth than every other organism combined! That’s including bacteria and other viruses. Here’s a super helpful graphic:


It is estimated that there are about 10^31 bacteriophages on earth, which is a one with 31 zeros behind it or ten million trillion trillion. From the book Crack in Creation “A single teaspoon of seawater contains five times more phages than there are people in New York City. ” Billions of phages are all over your body and even inside you right now!!

The main thing phages do is kill bacteria. Again from Crack in Creation: “[Phages] cause roughly a trillion trillion infections on earth every second, and in the ocean alone, about 40 percent of all bacteria die every day as a result of deadly phage infections.” Wow.

Over the past decade phages have played a very important role in scientific research.  Here are the two main ones:

1 – It was bacteria’s defense mechanism against bacteriophages that gave rise to the gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas 9. If you are not aware of this discovery, you can read the IFOD about it here: CRISPR-Cas9. It may be the most momentous discovery our species had made. Game changer.

2 – As you are probably aware, bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics is a real and growing issue. About 23,000 people a year die from antibiotic resistant bacteria. One solution to this is use of CRISPR. Another is to use phages to fight bacterial infections. Phages are very specialized and each type of phage only attacks a specific bacteria. If we can find/create phages that will attack antibiotic resistant bacteria we could inject those phages into infected individuals as a treatment.


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