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High Bacteriophages in Ganga River

High Bacteriophages in Ganga River


  • GS 3 ||  Science & Technology  || Biotechnology   || Environment & Biotechnology

Why In News?

A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.

Assessing Ganges Water

  • The Nagpur based NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.
  • As part of the assessment, five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • Their numbers was compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water.

What are Bacteriophages?

  • They are prokaryotic viruses that infect the bacteria.
  • They reproduce within bacterial cell and break them open in the process of their amplification.
  • In effect, they kill the bacterial cell and are antibacterial in nature. Further, they are extremely diverse.

Uniqueness of Ganga

  • That the Ganga may contain unique microbial life, which makes it relatively more resilient to putrefaction, was suggested by British colonial scientists about 200 years ago.
  • Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.
  • In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates.
  • Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers.
  • Samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river.

Uses of Bacteriophages

  • Phage therapy or viral phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections.
  • Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.
  • Bacteriophages are much more specific than antibiotics. They are typically harmless not only to the host organism, but also to other beneficial bacteria.

Additional Info –Background: Anti bacterial properties of Ganga

  • River Ganga is known for its self-purifying property and anti-bacterial property.
  • A British scientist had in 1896 confirmed that ‘Vibrio cholerae’, the pathogen that causes cholera, could not survive in Ganga water for even few hours.
  • A French microbiologist also found that even the dead bodies of people dead due to dysentery and cholera floating in Ganga had no germs.
  • The main reason for anti-bacterial property of river Ganga is the presence of bacteriophages.

Mains  Question

What is the Importance of Ganga River?