The latest outbreak of a contagious coronavirus from China came as no surprise – we’ve seen this movie before, several times. But now we’re better prepared, with the sort of biotech ‘weapons’ that just didn’t exist in 2020.
We’ve known for a long time, many decades in fact, that you can use one microorganism to kill another. As long as the one you’re using to destroy the bad bug doesn’t also infect healthy cells, then you’ve got a great solution.
Most helpful in this therapy is a bunch of virus-like things called bacteriophages, or phages for short, which ‘eat’ specific bacteria, like the notorious ‘Superbug’ that’s resistant to antibiotics. But how do you get a phage to kill a virus?
Using advanced genetic engineering similar to CRISPR, scientists have now managed to tweak phages to go after coronavirus strains, and let the CRISPR enzymes loose on them, destroying their RNA – that’s the active part that codes for replication. Think of it like snipping a ribbon to shreds.
Developed after the Covid-19 outbreak caused such havoc six years ago, the ‘virophages’ have to be ‘bred’ to target a particular coronavirus, and thoroughly tested to be sure they won’t be harmful themselves, but now they’re ready to battle with Covid-26.
So, release the phages! Just don’t tell anyone it’s actually a modified virus, but benign.