A series of clarify medical studies conducted by medical researchers at Rockefeller University have identified that a microorganism neglected in the past (a bacteriophage – virus that feeds on bacteria) may have a major contribution in causing strep throat and various other diseases that involve bacterial infection. The bacteriophage infects and destroys a wide range of bacteria, including Group A hemolytic streptococcus bacteria, organism that produces throb inflammation and pain, known as strep throat or acute pharyngitis of bacterial origin.
Despite past beliefs, the researchers from Rockefeller University claim that sometimes not the streptococcus bacteria are responsible for causing strep throat, but a type of bacteriophage, or "bacteria eating" virus. Although bacteriophages were considered to be un-infectious to humans, the findings of recent medical research indicate otherwise. Medical scientists believe that certain bacteriophages can cause diseases such as strep throat by producing mutations to bacteria and transferring various toxins among such organisms.
The implication of bacteriophages in the occurrence of strep throat may explain why most persons who present signs of Group A hemolytic streptococcus bacterium at throat culture testing does not experience any symptoms at all, while others not only develop strep throat, but also various complications such as tonsillitis, sinusitis or otitis.
Bacteriophages may be responsible for causing a wide range of bacterial diseases characterized by unusual activity of common benign bacteria (ulcer for instance is characterized by malignant activity of E coli bacteria, organism that is an important part of the human intestinal bacterial flora, which has the role to actually protect against dangerous intruding bacteria). By taking a closer look to these intriguing "bacterial eating" viral agents, medical scientists may soon find an efficient cure for various diseases that involve malignant behavior of otherwise harmless bacteria.
Concerned strep throat, medical scientists believe that a type of toxin-producing bacteriophage carries a toxin gene present in its genome to Group A hemolytic streptococcus bacteria, transforming this other neutral organism into a threatening microbe. The process through which the bacteriophage transforms the neutral organism into a disease-causing microbe is known as lysogenic conversion. Inside the human body, this process is accelerated and facilitated by a factor in the saliva referred to as SPIF (soluble phage inducing factor). SPIF has been identified to mobilize the bacteriophage, which enters in lysogenic conversion with streptococcus bacteria, thus causing strep throat.
A series of experiments delivered on mice have revealed that virtually any bacterium carrying a toxin-encoded bacteriophage can transform non-toxigenic organisms inside the body into toxigenic infectious agents. According to the findings, non-infectious bacteria can become toxicigenic by entering in contact with organizations carrying toxin-encoded bacteriophages. The studies suggest that the treatment of strep throat and various other infectious diseases that involve lysogenic conversion between bacteriophages and non-toxigenic bacteria should be aimed not only at controlling the causative microbe (in the case of strep throat – Group A hemolytic streptococcus bacteria) but also the bacteriophages that facilitate the occurrence of the infection.