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Bacteriophages are bacterial viruses. They are the viruses that infect bacteria. They are obligate intracellular parasites that multiply inside bacteria by making use of some or all of the host biosynthesis machinery. They are also called phages. These extra-chromosomal genetic elements usually survive outside a host cell due to the presence of a nucleic acid genome surrounded by a protein coat. Phages occur widely in nature in close association with bacteria and are distributed widely in the soil, feces, and in other substances in the environment. They are associated with transmission of genetic material from one bacterium to another.
The activities of bacteriophage were first described by Twort in 1915, who described it as an infectious agent that distorted the appearance of the colonies of staphylococci. Subsequently, d’Herelle in 1979 demonstrated the lytic activities of the culture filtrate on bacterial colonies. He suggested that the lytic agent was a virus and gave it the name bacteriophage (phage: to eat).
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