Bacteriophages are viruses that require bacteria host cells for growth and reproduction. Initially, the bacteriophage attaches itself to the bacteria cell wall and injects nuclear substance into the cell. Inside the cell, the nuclear substance produces shells, or phage coats, for the new bacteriophage which are quickly filled with nucleic acid. The bacterial cell ruptures and dies as the new bacteriophage are released.
Bacteriophages are ubiquitous but generally enter the milk processing plant with the farm milk. They can be inactivated heat treatments of 30 min at 63 to 88° C, or by the use of chemical disinfectants.
Bacteriophages are of most concern in cheese making. They attack and destroy most of the lactic acid bacteria which prevents normal ripening known as slow or dead vat.