Microbiology => Bacteriophage
Bacteriophage, any of various viruses that are parasites of bacteria. They are present in human waste and in soil and sewage. Bacteriophages were discovered in 1915 by the British investigator Frederick W. Twort, and also discovered independently in 1917 by the French-Canadian scientist Félix H. d'Hérelle. Since the 1940s, research with bacteriophages, or phages, has resulted in establishing nucleic acids as the genetic material of life and has been central in the new field of molecular biology.
In 1952 the American biologists Norton Zinder and Joshua Lederberg at the University of Wisconsin made the important discovery that genes of one bacterium can be transduced, or transplanted, to another bacterium by means of a phage. Other researchers discovered further that a phage could integrate its genes into that of its bacterial host and be transmitted from generation to generation as part of the host's own chromosome.
In the 1960s, pioneering research with phage host-parasite systems was conducted by the American physiologists Max Delbrück, Alfred Hershey, and Salvador Luria, for which they became joint recipients of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. In 1980, British biochemist Frederick Sanger won a Nobel Prize for his use of phage microbiology in DNA sequencing.
The study of phages has important implications in medicine and genetics, specifically in the understanding of virus infections, genetic defects, human development and maldevelopment, the causes of cancer, and resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.