Could phages be used as an alternative to antibiotics?

They already are, to some extent. Bacteriophages, or ‘phages’ for short, are viruses that target specific bacteria. The virus penetrates the bacterial cell membrane and hijacks its DNA machinery to produce more copies of itself. This eventually ruptures the bacterium, killing it and releasing more phages. Phage therapy is actually at least 90 years old. It was used extensively in Russia during the Cold War, when access to western antibiotics was limited. Phages get around the problem of bacteria evolving resistance because they are constantly evolving themselves. The downside is that you need a very specific phage to target every different bacterial strain. In practice, this means administering a cocktail of different phages and updating the recipe every few months. Phage therapy is currently only approved in Russia and Georgia, but interest in other countries is currently soaring.


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