Treatment of bacteriophage T7 with ascorbic acid resulted in the rapid accumulation of single-strand breaks in the DNA with double-strand breaks appearing only after incubation times of 20 min or longer. The single-strand breaks were responsible for a rapid inactivation of the phage as assayed by immediate plating of the phage-bacteria mixture on nutrient agar. Incubation of the phage-bacteria mixture in liquid medium prior to plating allowed a host cell reactivation process to repair the nicks and reactivate the phage. Non-reversible inactivation of the phage was a slower process which could be correlated with the appearance of double-strand breaks in the phage DNA. Host cell reactivation of the phage was also manifested in the phenomena of delayed lysis and delayed appearance of the concatemeric DNA replication intermediate. © 1982.