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Research could lead to a better understanding of flesh-eating disease

Royal Society University Research Fellow Dr Edward Taylor has joined the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences

 

Dr Taylor spent the last ten years at the University of York where he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in 2006. The funding continues for a further two years.

Dr Taylor’s research focuses on bacteriophage (often called phage) – which are viruses that infect bacteria. These are extremely common and mostly harmless; however some play a role in diseases such as diphtheria, cholera, dysentery, botulism, necrotizing (flesh-eating) pneumonia, toxic shock and scarlet fever.

Phages are nature’s “genetic engineers”, frequently swapping genes between bacterial strains. This happens by the phage attaching itself to the surface of the cell, making a hole and then injecting its own DNA into the bacteria. Occasionally this DNA becomes integrated into the bacterial chromosome where it lays dormant, but more commonly the phage is active straight away. The bacterial metabolism is hijacked, the DNA de-coded and new phages are produced in great numbers. Finally the bacterium is burst open and the new virus particles escape.

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