In The Field

ASM 2008: Zit-zapping viruses

Here’s one of the more creative uses of viruses that I’ve come across: harnessing viruses that attack bacteria to kill off a bug commonly associated with particularly nasty pimples.

The bacterium in the crosshairs is Propionibacterium acnes, and has been linked to the more serious pimples of the most common form of acne: “acne vulgaris”. Michael Davis of Central Connecticut State University has been swabbing the foreheads, noses, and backs of students to build a collection nearly 400 P. acnes isolates. He and his team of graduate and undergraduate students then tested several dozen viruses against the P. acnes cultures. They’ve found a few that can kill specific strains of P. acnes, and now they’re exposing their viruses to UV light to create viral mutants that, they hope, will be active against a wide variety of P. acnes strains. Davis along with his team (undergrads Margaret Zurowski and Brandon Albright, and grad student Kathryn Neely) presented their work as a poster this morning.

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