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A team of researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University is investigating whether viruses will be able to control blue-green algae blooms that have been plaguing Florida’s waters.

Led by Sharon Isern, professor of biological sciences at FGCU, the study will try to isolate naturally occurring phages in an effort to kill the cyanobacteria commonly referred to as blue-green algae.

What is a phage?

A phage is a virus that infects bacteria. Prior to the rise of antibiotics, phage therapy was an experimental method that used these viruses to target and kill pathogens in humans. In a similar method, researchers will attempt to isolate virus strains capable of killing the cyanobacteria.

Why it matters.

Some types of blue-green algae produce toxins that can potentially be harmful to humans and animals. Blooms can also lead to fish kills and prevent light from reaching plants growing underwater.

The researchers hope that growing these viruses at scale and releasing them into affected areas will give us a new tool in treating algae blooms, with no risk to other organisms since phages are specific to only a certain type of bacteria.

The study is in the early stages of identifying useful phages, but the scientists hope that results may someday help control these blooms.

Where can I learn more?