Friendly Viruses

Viruses get a bad rap. We despise their existence every time we think about our last nasty cold or flu. But viruses, the most abundant creatures on earth, do many good things. Take bacteriophages, for example. Bacteriophages, or phages for short, are viruses that infect bacteria. The phages invade bacteria and reproduce in their host until their high numbers eventually rupture and kill the bacteria. When ocean bacteria are ruptured, they release tons of carbon and nitrogen so other living organisms can use them, or these nutrients are stored in mud deposits for later use.

Another phage found in the ocean actually helps restore proteins in carbon-collecting bacteria that have suffered "sunburn." These carbon-collecting bacteria, called cyanobacteria, may collect as much carbon from the atmosphere as all the plants on earth combined. They are important recyclers of this key element, which is required for life by all living things. Unfortunately, sunlight sometimes destroys some of their proteins, just as you would get sunburned if you lay on a raft in the ocean too long. The phages in the water help reverse the damage to the bacteria by delivering new genetic components that restore the damaged carbon-collecting proteins. How kind of them!

[Read the rest of the article at Answers in Genesis.]