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Free Content TB: the return of the phage. A review of fifty years of mycobacteriophage research

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The first mycobacteriophage was isolated in 1947, and since that time over 250 of these viruses have been identified. Phages have made a significant contribution to our knowledge of mycobacteria over the past fifty years, and following the development of typing techniques in the 1960s and 1970s they were widely used in epidemiological studies of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, attempts to use lytic phages therapeutically during tuberculosis infection have so far failed to elicit cure in experimentally infected animals. During the past decade phages have become important in molecular studies of mycobacteria, both in terms of studying phage biology and as tools in recombinant DNA technology, thus facilitating the investigation of mycobacterial pathogenesis. Today their potential as diagnostics reagents is also being realised with the development of exciting new techniques for rapid bacterial detection and drug susceptibility testing. This review outlines the history of these remarkable organisms, from their discovery fifty years ago to the current developments in rapid diagnostic techniques.
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Keywords: mycobacteriophage; phage typing; susceptibility testing; therapy; tuberculosis

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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