Journal of Undergraduate Research


B4 mycobacteriophages protein, silico, vivo, mycobacterium smegmatis


Life Sciences


Microbiology and Molecular Biology


Once the leading cause of death in the United States, tuberculosis still burdens the world as the second deadliest infectious disease worldwide, latently infecting one-third of the world population and causing 1.5 million deaths in 2013 [1]. Tuberculosis is particularly lethal largely because the pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis has several characteristics that make detecting, treating, and studying the disease unusually hard. Among these traits, M. tuberculosis has a complex cell wall that limits the effect of many antibiotics and makes genetic manipulation of the bacterium, a necessity for effective research, nearly impossible through conventional transformation techniques [2]. Recently, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) initiated a nationwide project called Phage Hunters with an aim of finding an alternative solution to fighting tuberculosis through the discovery and analysis of bacteriophages, viruses that attack specific bacterial hosts. Viruses are relatively simple systems that can be used to kill, detect, and introduce genetic material into bacteria, so researching viruses and their interactions with hosts provides a powerful approach to fighting infectious diseases. Techniques for studying, detecting, and treating tuberculosis with phages have been proposed or tested with promising results, but a greater understanding of phages is still necessary before these techniques can be used in clinical applications [2].

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