A bacteriophage looks like the ultimate out-of-this-world structure, with a geometric head, attached to a tube, and ending in tail fibers that are essentially its landing gear. Watching a bacteriophage attach itself to its host bacteria is eerily reminiscent of a spaceship landing on a planet. The bacteriophage then pierces the surface of the cell, injects its genetic material into it, and proceeds to take over.
While this might look like something out of a science fiction movie, the humble phage exists anywhere there are bacteria. This includes the gut, where researchers are now working to understand what phages are doing in their natural environment, and then how to engineer them to benefit us. I interviewed Dr. Jeremy Barr about his work on bacteriophages and their role in the human gut, and what we can expect in the future from these exciting life forms.