Phage therapy is an alternative to antibiotics, being developed for clinical use by many western research groups in Europe and the US. It has been extensively used and developed in the former Soviet Union.
The treatment is effective by using the phage virus to infect and kill specific bacteria whilst not interacting with the surrounding human tissue or other harmless bacteria. The virus replicates quickly so a single, small dose is usually sufficient.
History of Phage therapy
In Russia from the time of Stalin there has been extensive research and development in this field. Isolated from Western advances in antibiotic production in the 1940s, Russian scientists continued to develop already successful phage therapy to treat the wounds of soldiers in field hospitals. The success rate was as good as, if not better than any antibiotic, and Russian researchers continued to develop and to refine their treatments and to publish their research and results.
For various reasons, not least the impermeability of the Russian language to Western researchers, Russian advances in the field remain relatively unknown in the West.
There is an extensive library and research centre at the Tbilisi Institute in Georgia. Phage therapy is today a widespread form of treatment in the previous Iron Curtain countries.
Benefits of Phage therapy
The most clear benefit of phage therapy is that bacteria cannot easily develop resistance to phages, so the technique is likely to be devoid of the problems similar to antibiotic resistance.
Secondly bacteriophages are very specific, targeting only particular strain of bacteria. Traditional antibiotics have a wide-ranging effect, meaning that they kill both harmful and useful bacteria (such as those facilitating food digestion). The specificity of phage reduces the chance that useful bacteria are killed when fighting an infection.
Research groups in the West are seeking to develop broad spectrum phage and targeted MRSA treatments in a variety of forms - including impregnated dressings for wounds.
Pirisi A. Phage therapy: advantages over antibiotics? Lancet 2000; 356: 1418
Newspaper article on Phage
Last updated: 05-07-2005 07:03:44
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04