Phages can interact with bacteria in two main ways. In the first, phages infect a bacterial cell and hijack that cell’s protein-making machinery to replicate themselves, after which the newly made virus particles lyse the bacterium and go on to infect more cells. In the second process, known as lysogeny, the viral genome is incorporated into the bacterial chromosome, becoming what’s known as a prophage, and lies dormant—potentially for many generations—until certain biotic or abiotic factors in the bacterium or the environment induce it to excise itself from the chromosome and resume the cycle of viral replication, lysis, and infection of new cells.
Bacteria-infecting viruses, or bacteriophages, may influence microbial communities in the mammalian gut in various ways, some of which are illustrated here. Through predation, phages can influence the abundance of specific bacterial taxa, with indirect effects on the...
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