Health – Useful viruses live with us and for us

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Most viruses have a “toxic” relationship with their hosts, that is, they cause disease. Pathogenic viruses invade the host cells, capturing their mechanisms and generating new viral particles that spread throughout the body.

But not all viruses are harmful to us. Some, on the contrary, kill pathogenic bacteria or fight much more dangerous opponents.

We already know that our body contains protective bacteria (probiotics), now it’s time to get acquainted with protective viruses.

Protective phages

Bacteriophages (or “phages”) are viruses that infect and destroy certain bacteria (each phage focuses on its own bacterium). Phages live in the mucous membrane of the digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts.

The mucous membrane is so called, because there is mucus – a thick, viscous substance that forms a physical barrier from various pathogens. However, this barrier is not only physical, but also immune. Recent studies have shown that phleges are present in mucus, and they also carry their share of the burden of protecting humans from harmful invaders.

Over the past century, phages have already been used to treat dysentery, sepsis caused by Staphylococcus aureus, salmonellosis and skin infections. Previously, phage sources for therapy were local water bodies, dirt, air, sewage, and even biological fluids from infected patients. Viruses were isolated, cleaned, and then they were used for treatment.

Today there is a new surge of interest in phages, as drug-resistant infections continue to grow. For example, recently, using phages, they put on their feet a dying British teenager infected with a serious antibiotic- resistant infection.

Modern therapeutic phages are primarily a product of genetic engineering. Individual strains are tested against target bacteria, and the most effective ones are purified to a strong concentration and used in therapy.

Sometimes phages for the treatment of specific patients are taken directly from these patients. The patient’s secretions are collected on a tampon, then the collected microorganisms are cultured in the laboratory and checked for stocks of phage corresponding to the pathogen. When a phage is found, it can be treated: from oral administration to various lotions. The technology for intravenous administration of phages is being tested.

Beneficial viral infections

Viral infections at a young age are vital for the proper development of our immune system. The immune system is constantly stimulated by small amounts of viruses from the environment, which contributes to the development of resistance to other infections. And some viruses directly protect us from being infected by other pathogens.

For example, latent (non-symptomatic) herpes viruses help our immune killer cells (T-killers) identify cancer cells and cells infected with other viruses. Herpesviruses, as it were, arm the immune cells with antigens, which will allow them to further identify the site of incipient cancer. Modified versions of these viruses are already planned to be used to target cancer cells.

However, it should be understood that viruses do not save us out of spiritual goodness, but for their survival — such is their competitive strategy in which they are forced to protect their master.

Pegivirus A or GBV-C is also our protective virus. For humans, it is completely safe. However, numerous studies have shown that patients with HIV infected with GBV-C live longer than patients without it.

The GBV-C virus slows down the progression of the disease by blocking the host receptors necessary for the virus to enter the cell and promotes the release of virus-detecting interferons and cytokines (proteins that activate inflammation and remove infected cells and pathogens).

And the well-known noroviruses protect the intestines of mice after a course of antibiotics. During the experiments, antibiotics killed the beneficial intestinal microflora, making mice susceptible to intestinal infections. But the introduced noroviruses, even in the absence of probiotics, were able to protect their owners.

The future of therapeutic viruses
Modern technology has enabled scientists to better understand the complexities of microbial communities that are part of the human body. Now we know that in addition to beneficial bacteria, beneficial viruses are present in our intestines, skin, and even blood.

However, scientific understanding of the beneficial viral component is still in its infancy. But obviously, this direction has enormous potential that will help to further understand viral infections, and to figure out how best to fight diseases.

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