In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. His discovery was purely accidental. Despite originating from a humble mold, penicillin revolutionized medicine. Soon life threatening bacterial infections become minor complications. However, after several years of use, we ran into a problem. Bacteria developed resistance to penicillin and antibiotics, and we saw the rise of superbugs. These antibiotic immune superbugs posed a great risk to our health and well being. However, we do have one more defense in our arsenal: bacteriophages.
What are Bacteriophages?
Bacteriophages are a type of virus that hunts bacteria.
They possess a geometrically shape headed and a set of spider like legs. When they encounter bacteria, these phages attach themselves to the surface of the cell. They inject their genetic code into the cell. New bacteriophages are produced from the resources of the bacteria cell. These newly minted phages bursts the bacteria from the inside out.
Applications In Modern Medicine
Using bacteriophages may be even more effective than antibiotics. Bacteriophages can mutate and evolve to become even better killers, matching bacteria’s attempts to develop resistance. Furthermore, these phages are specialized in the bacteria they kill. Unlike antibiotics that destroy good and harmful bacteria alike, phages are precise.
If bacteria do develop resistance to these viruses, they may become vulnerable to antibiotics instead. Bacteria cannot have phage and antibiotic resistance at the same time.
Although this form of medicine is still in its infancy, it demonstrates great potential. Perhaps in a few decades we will make a new breakthrough in medicine, a breakthrough as significant as when Fleming discovered penicillin.