FGCU scientists test viruses to stop blue-green algae

Hearing the word virus, many think of a cold or something that invades a computer. But that is not what came to mind for researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University.

While people hope for a solution to blue-green algae, scientists at FGCU work to combat it using a virus.

“As someone who studies viruses,” said Dr. Sharon Isern, a molecular virologist and science educator at FGCU. “We look at opportunities to help the community understand the viruses and the systems they encounter.”

Viruses can get a bad rap. But an FGCU biology student, Alicia Belony, said they are using them to inhibit blue-green algae.

“We’re trying to find environmental viruses that are already found in the environment and seeing if we can isolate them,” Belony said, “to apply them to the blue-green algae to see if that can help control the problem.”

The idea is to collect water samples to see if they carry bacterial viruses, also known as phage.

Dr. Isern said viruses only infect specific bacteria. That makes it a targeted attack, one that the professor told us will not hurt people.

The research team has not isolated any viruses to stop the problem yet.

“Every time you’re working with a new host, you have to adapt,” Dr. Isern said. “Figure out how to grow the host in a laboratory, how do you do your screening in the laboratory, so we’re setting up those systems now.”

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Michael Mora
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