From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Bacteriophages
Mains level : Importance of Ganga River
- 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.
- Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga — particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches — has more of them.
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.
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.