GUNILLA ELAM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GUNILLA ELAM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Bacteriophage virions (purple) attacking bacteria (green), computer artwork. A bacteriophage, or phage, is a virus that infects bacteria. It consists of a head, containing the genetic material, a tail (central section) and tail fibres, which fix it to a specific receptor site. The tail injects its genetic material into the bacterium (as is occurring at top centre), and this hijacks the bacterium's own cellular machinery, forcing it to produce more copies of the bacteriophage. When a sufficient number have been produced, the phages exit the cell by lysis (lower left), killing it in the process.
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