Are There Beneficial Viruses? (Part 1: Antibacterial Viruses)

The role of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) on human health is well established. Various strains of bacteria populate our body (especially the digestive tract) and offer a myriad of benefits which include aiding in digestion, protecting us from toxins, decreasing inflammation, and protecting us from other disease causing bacteria. But just as there are good bacteria and bad bacteria, are there good viruses and bad viruses? In short, yes.

One likely route of viral benefit is in antibacterial action.

Viruses that infect bacteria, known as bacteriophages, can infect pathogens with little damage to us. Most of the extensively studied bacteriophages infect strains of E. coli, though phages exist that can infect various Staphylococci, Streptococci, Listeria, Shigella, and Vibrio bacteria, just to name a few.

Having bacteriophages come in and kill off disease causing bacteria or at least reduce them to numbers which our immune system can handle has great potential benefit to us, especially if we want to avoid using broad spectrum antibiotics that can also kill off good bacteria.

At some point in the future I’ll discuss other ways certain viruses may benefit our health.