Bacteriophages are going to save us from bacteria

Icosahedral bacteriophages infecting two bacteria.
M.M. Poranen and S. Mäntynen | Icosahedral bacteriophages infecting two bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in modern medicine, as bacteria increasingly develop resistance to the drugs used to treat infections. One potential solution to this problem is the use of bacteriophages, also known as phages. Phages are viruses that specifically infect and kill bacteria, and they have been shown to be effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria in various studies.

Phages are highly specific, meaning that they only infect specific strains of bacteria. This specificity allows them to target and kill bacteria without harming the host's own healthy bacteria or other cells. In contrast, antibiotics can have harmful side effects on the host because they are not as specific and can kill off beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones.

Phages are also able to evolve and adapt to the bacteria they infect, allowing them to overcome bacterial resistance. When a phage infects a bacterium, it injects its genetic material into the bacteria and takes over its machinery to replicate itself. During this process, the phage can exchange genetic material with the bacteria, potentially giving rise to new phage strains that are better able to infect and kill the bacteria. This process of evolution and adaptation allows phages to keep up with the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In addition, phages can be isolated from natural environments, such as soil and water, and can be easily produced in large quantities. This makes them readily available and inexpensive to use.

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of phages in treating bacterial infections. In one study, phages were used to treat patients with chronic bacterial infections that were resistant to antibiotics. The treatment was successful in clearing the infections in most of the patients. In another study, phages were used to treat bacterial infections in wounds and burns, with similar success.

Despite their potential benefits, the use of phages is not without drawbacks. One concern is that the use of phages could lead to the evolution of phage-resistant bacteria. However, this risk can be mitigated by using a cocktail of different phages that target the same bacteria, as this reduces the likelihood of the bacteria developing resistance to all of the phages.

Another potential issue is the lack of regulatory frameworks for the use of phages in medicine. Phages are currently classified as drugs, which means that they must go through the same rigorous testing and approval process as other drugs. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, which may limit their use in clinical settings.

Overall, the use of phages has shown great promise in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Their ability to specifically target and kill bacteria, evolve and adapt to overcome bacterial resistance, and be easily produced in large quantities make them a potential alternative to antibiotics. However, further research and development is needed to address the potential drawbacks and ensure their safe and effective use in clinical settings.