Could viruses be good for you? Scientists with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have shown that enzymes from bacteria-infecting viruses known as phages could have beneficial applications for human and animal health.
Phage enzymes called endolysins attack bacteria by breaking down their cell walls. Unlike antibiotics, which tend to have a broad range, endolysins are comparatively specific, targeting unique bonds in the cell walls of their hosts. This is significant because it means non-target bacteria could be less likely to develop resistance to endolysins.
Researchers at the ARA Animal Biosciences and Botechnology Laboratory in
Studies led by ARS biologist David Donovan show that phage enzymes could be used to wipe out multi-drug-resistant pathogens that affect both animals and humans, such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.
The scientists showed that the enzymes can knock out pathogens in biofilms, which are matrices of microorganisms that can attach to a variety of surfaces. Biofilms are resistant to antibiotics and contribute to many human infections.
In a related study, the scientists showed that using the endolysins lysostaphin and LysK in concert inhibited the growth of staphylococcal strains that cause mastitis in cattle and staph infections in humans.
This research was published recently in the journal Biotech International.