noun, plural: bacteriophages

A virus capable of infecting a bacterial cell, and may cause lysis to its host cell.


Bacteriophages have a specific affinity for bacteria. They are made of an outer protein coat or capsid that encloses the genetic material (which can be an RNA or DNA, about 5,000 to 500,000 nucleotides in length). They inject their genetic material into the bacterium following infection. When the strain is virulent, all the synthesis of the host's DNA, RNA and proteins ceases. The phage genome is then used to direct the synthesis of phage nucleic acids and proteins using the host's transcriptional and translational apparatus. When the sub-components of the phage are produced, they self-assemble to form new phage particles. The new phages produce lysozyme that ruptures the cell wall of the host, leading to the release of the new phages, each ready to invade other bacterial cells.

Coliphages (such as lambda phage and t even phages: t2, t4 and t6) are example of bacteriophages that attack Escherichia coli.

Word origin: From bacterio- (bacteria) + Greek phagein (to eat)
Related forms: bacteriophagic (adjective), bacteriophagy (noun)

Also called: phage

Related terms:

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