Studies confirm bacteriophages are caused by viruses and reveal how they multiply.

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet discovers bacteriophages – viruses that invade bacteria – replicate in a hidden fashion inside the bacteria until emerging when the host dies.

Settling debate

Arguments rage between scientists over the origin of bacteriophages and whether they are caused by a virus or internal mechanisms of the affected bacteria.

Burnet, together with Margot McKie, confirms bacteriophages are viral in nature, and produce evidence that later settles another debate: how the virus inserts itself into the bacteria’s genetic code to ensure replication and survival.

This rigorous scientific work forms the basis for future studies using bacteriophages as a tool for genetic research.

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Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet begins his research career at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
Burnet discovers the bacterium, later named in his honour, which causes potentially fatal Q fever.