Your mouth is a dirty place.
Your gums are teeming with bacteria—and don’t even get me started on the colonies living between your teeth. Some of these colonies are harmless, but some cause serious disease if they manage to get under the outer tissue layer.
One such bacterium is enterococcus faecalis. Normally it lives in the gastronintesintanl tract, but can occur in the mouth. However, if it gets into your blood stream, the result can be endocarditis (infection of the heart) or bacteremia (bacteria in the blood stream).
Often, this bacterium causes problems for dentists and their patients—especially during root canals. And infection can be hard to dispose of, especially since the bacteria secretes a sticky protective layer called a biofilm.
A recent study in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology has discovered a helpful phage—or bacteria-targeting virus—that seems to work even better than antibiotics. The phage, called EFDG1, was highly effective in all the situations the researchers tested. It almost completely eliminated the bacteria is both normal culture and ones rife with biofilm.
The coolest part of this? The phage was originally isolated from sewage. It is now being explored as a possible therapy to drastically reduce the rate of E. faecalis infection after dental surgery.