Using Viruses to Help Clean Wastewater

Just as certain viruses infect humans, there also are viruses that infect only bacteria. Unlike human viruses, however, which are non-discriminatory and will infect any number of different people, these viruses, known as bacteriophages, are “host-specific,” meaning each will attack only one particular bacteria.

“Wherever bacteria exist, there are bacteriophages,” says Ramesh Goel, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Utah. “If we go to any wetland, or streams or wastewater treatment process, bacteria are there, and so are bacteriophages.”

Goel believes he can put this phenomenon to good use.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist, who studies the microbial ecology of natural and engineered systems, particularly those that use microbes to remove pollutants and other contaminants from waste water, is trying to harness the power of bacteriophages to rid treated wastewater of problematic bacteria that cause operational problems during treatment.

Read more of the story at the NSF website.