In a recent study, researchers have discovered that bacteria-killing viruses, known as phages, may have beneficial effects on our cells when they are engulfed. This finding is significant, especially as phages are increasingly being used as an alternative to antibiotics in some parts of the world due to the antibiotic resistance crisis.
The study, conducted by Jeremy Barr and his colleagues at Monash University in Australia, involved exposing human and mammalian cells to the well-studied T4 phage in a laboratory. The researchers wanted to understand the impact of phages on cellular inflammation and processes within the cells.
The results showed that when cells took up the phages, no immune responses were triggered, indicating that phages could potentially treat bacterial infections without worsening symptoms. Additionally, the researchers found that the engulfment of phages by cells altered two signaling pathways that govern cellular functions. One pathway boosted cell growth, survival, and proliferation, while the other temporarily stalled the cell cycle just before DNA replication.
Despite these findings, experts emphasize that phage therapies are safe. Mikael Skurnik at the University of Helsinki in Finland believes that phage-mammalian cell interactions occur regularly in our bodies without any significant consequences. This supports the notion that phage therapies can be used safely.
However, there are some concerns that cells engulfing phages may reduce the availability of phages to attack bacteria when used therapeutically. Sabrina Green at KU Leuven in Belgium suggests that this might not be an issue as phages propagate and replenish their numbers as they target bacteria.
Future studies are needed to explore the interactions between different types of phages and mammalian cells. Currently, the focus has been on the T4 phage, but examining other types of phages could provide a more comprehensive understanding of their effects.
In conclusion, the study highlights the potential health benefits of phages when they are engulfed by cells. Understanding these interactions is crucial as phages are being considered as a solution to the antibiotic resistance crisis. Further research is needed to fully comprehend the impact and potential of phage therapies.