Sarit Sternberg and microscope collage Sarit Sternberg and microscope collage Sarit Sternberg, 16, discovered a virus that can kill anthrax better than antibiotics can. (Photo: Courtesy/Shutterstock)

While you were just being a normal person, this teenager figured out how to disarm anthrax

Israeli student discovers a virus that attacks this dangerous infection and could save lives. And she's not even in college yet.

What were you doing at 16 years old? Playing video games with friends? Begging Mom to drive you to the mall? Waiting to be picked up from soccer practice? Trying to finish those last few pages of homework before dinner gets cold?

Well, Sarit Sternberg has a little more on her mind. The teenager recently returned from Australia, a far trip from her native Israel, to talk about a discovery she and her classmates made while working on a research project as part of a program for gifted high school students. Her focus was on phages, which are bacteria-killing viruses that have been shown to work better than some antibiotics to kill infections caused by anthrax. (In case you're not aware, anthrax is a deadly disease caused by a bacteria that is contracted in four ways: by injection, through the skin, by inhalation or within the intestines. Nasty stuff.)

And in her research, she found one virus that can knock out the effects of anthrax. Colleagues say Sternberg's discovery could open many doors for the prevention and treatment of the disease.

Oh, and did we mention she's only 16? As in, not even in college yet?

"When you see people like Sarit and the work she's doing to solve some of the problems the world has, it gives me great hope for the next generation," said Anne Hastings, principal of Emanuel School in Sydney, Australia, where Sternberg spoke to students about her discovery.

Sarit Sternberg made a presentation at Emanuel School in Sydney, Australia.Sarit Sternberg made a presentation at Emanuel School in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Courtesy)

For her part, Sternberg reacted to the discovery like any kid would – "literally jumping up and down," she recalled.

But she also understands the seriousness of her work and what new avenues in treatment could mean. "Anthrax is a very dangerous disease," she said. "It could cause death within a week or less."


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