A protein that can kill bacteria and serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future has been identified by scientists.
The isolation of this protein, produced by a virus that attacks bacteria, is a major step toward developing a substitute for conventional antibiotics.
Bacteriophages, often referred to as "phages," are viruses that infect and replicate in bacteria. Because they coevolved with bacteria, they are optimized to kill them. As proof of their endurance, phages are the most common life form on earth, outnumbering bacteria 10 to one
Dr. Qimron and his colleagues set out to understand how all 56 proteins found in T7, a particularly virulent phage that infects Escherichia coli bacteria, contribute to its functioning.
They discovered that one of the proteins, called 0.4, impedes cell division in E. coli, causing the cells of the bacteria to elongate and then die. The protein is common to many bacteria and a similar process occurs in all bacteria, so the finding may have wide application.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.