BACTERIOPHAGE THERAPY: A NEW TYPE OF ANTIBIOTIC
By Deniz Kaya
We are always coming up with new ways to treat new diseases. Take for example cancer; a form of disease involving abnormal cell growth, where damaged genetic information within a cell, likely as a result of a bad lifestyle is the main cause. In recent years we have come up with a variety of ways to treat cancer, many of which you may already know.
Bacteriophage therapy is simply another way of treating diseases, maybe even cancer, that hasn't been created by us. To put it bluntly, phage therapy is like painting with colours that we've already been given, rather than mixing them up to create new ones. As a result, we see the answer not in the synthesis of new miracle compounds or the creation of new technology, but present within the world around us.
Phage therapy is based on using bacteriophages. Bacterio means that it is to do with bacteria and phage is derived from the Greek word phagein, meaning to devour. Therefore the therapy involves bacteria being devoured. It involves using viruses, called bacteriophages, that are specific to bacteria cells. It makes more sense if you consider that in an area where bacteria naturally thrive, such as sewers, and viruses, they would eventually adapt to replicate inside bacteria cells, instead of other cells, namely animal cells, especially considering their high mutation rate. The process of replication involving the destruction of the bacteria cell is especially convenient.
It has a variety of different advantages. For example:
- It can treat bacteria that is resistant to diseases, such as MRSA, that traditional antibiotics otherwise wouldn't be able to combat. And even if it was put against a type of bacteria that was resistant to it, its high mutation rate would be able to overcome this resistance easily.
- It is a self-replicating type of treatment, meaning it is economically viable as only small quantities are required and the phage will increase its number depending on the number of bacteria present in the body.
- Unlike traditional antibiotics they don't have as wide an area of effect within the body, due to how they are adapted specifically, meaning they will be less likely to interfere with the chemical workings of the body.
- They have a higher ability to travel to different areas of the body, perhaps being able to treat bacterial diseases even within the brain.
Knowing how far this treatment could go and the potential that it has, it could be the closest thing that we have to a miracle cure, one that modifies itself to the type of disease. It could even the ability to maybe adapt to cancer, a disease notoriously hard to treat in later stages. As such, a question to think about when treatments like this eventually roll out: Is it too good to be true?
References: - Britannica.com