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Name: Jerome M.
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Question:
Is there a virus killing bacteria?



Replies:
When somebody talks about a virus "living", they really are talking about the ability of that virus to reproduce and make copies of itself. That can only happen inside a functioning cell, which can be a bacterial cell, or in a laboratory in a test tube.

The consequence of a virus "living" is that it usually kills its host cell in the process. Within your body, your immune system fights off a viral infection by killing those cells that are infected with the virus before the virus is finished replicating. Those half-cooked viruses can not go on to infect other cells and are (for all purposes) "dead."

It is unlikely that there is a bacterial strain that can kill a virus. Bacterial cells do not cooperate the way your immune system does, and so the only way that they could prevent the virus from replicating would be to self-destruct. For instance, they might make some toxin that would kill a bacterium infected by a virus, but not an uninfected one. I am not aware of any examples of that.

Christine Ticknor, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University



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