Antibiotics have changed the world since their invention in the early 20th century, but their usefulness might be coming to an end. Bacteria are evolving resistances to most antibiotics, making these increasingly useless for fighting diseases. A new study gives hope that scientists can find an effective replacement for antibiotics: viruses.
We often think of viruses as deadly pathogens, but most of them are harmless to us. The biggest victims of the world’s viruses are bacteria, and viruses that only target bacteria are called bacteriophages. Because bacteriophages only target bacteria they don’t pose any threat to us, which makes them ideal for fighting infections.
A group of researchers conducted a clinical trial to determine just how effective bacteriophages are at fighting viruses, and whether they cause any side effects to the patients. The research was presented at the recent Nutrition 2018 conference, and the researchers found that, as expected, the bacteriophages did their job ending the infection.
More importantly, the bacteriophages didn’t cause any of the common side-effects that antibiotics cause, like a weakened immune system or gastrointestinal problems. That’s because bacteriophages only attack one specific type of bacteria, unlike antibiotics which are harmful to all bacteria equally.
This particular fact means that treating bacterial infections with specialized viruses might be better than treating them with antibiotics. A patient infected with a particular strain of bacteria could be injected with the corresponding bacteriophage, which would eliminate that particular harmful species without messing up the delicate balance of the microbiome.
One clinical trial doesn’t mean that bacteriophages will be showing up at your pharmacy any time soon, but it does provide critical momentum for further research. We’re rapidly running out of time to find an alternative to our antibiotics, and these bacteriophages might provide a solution.
Source: Nutrition 2018
For more information on emerging antibiotic research visit: Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership
Previously Published By: Popular Mechanics USA