bacteriophage, phageA virus that infects and destroys bacteria. Most bacteriophages are simple organisms consisting of a DNA or RNA core and a protein coat, but some are more complex. Phages incorporate their genetic material into the host genome and replicate. Some cause the death of the bacterial cell; some do not. Phages were first suspected in 1896 when if was found that the heavily contaminated water of the Ganges could destroy cholera bacteria.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005