phage are safe!!!

Denni Schnapp ds4 at
Wed Feb 22 05:56:39 EST 1995

I must second what Peter Angletti wrote: Phages are totally and utterly 
safe for eukaryotes, this is the reason why I use them as models for
antiviral defense in crustacean (this is also where I have problems,
the things are very different from animal viruses and conclusions have
to be drawn with care!). But I know from bitter experience where such
ignorance (which no biologist should have!) can lead, because when I was
a neophyte with my PhD project and therefore nobody in the department
(other than my supervisor) knew what I was doing except that it had to do
with "viruses" I was almost expelled by the safety personell because I
was trying to use an ultracentrifuge to run CsCl gradients with phage
and they thought I had contaminated the building with infectious agents
hazardous to health! It took about a week of explanation and pleading
before I was allowed back at the centrifuge and it did not reflect well
on supposedly more experienced persons who should be there to advise and
help students instead of giving them a hard time. Of course I had used 
the word "phage" rather than "virus" from the beginning.
So let us be careful to make the distinction between phages and viruses
which can potentially infect animals (though only few of all the viruses
there are are actually capable of infecting humans!!) less we risk that
all our labs are closed down on us. Everybody who uses phages in molecular
biology should be aware of this!


Denni (ds4 at

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