The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Fight Bacteria with Viruses?

Bacteriophages, viruses that fight bacteria, may help physicians reduce the burden of antibiotic resistance by offering an alternative to overcome infection.
Human icon in flat style bacteriophage medical

Antibiotic resistance has become a global concern. But Mother Nature has come up with a fascinating option for overcoming bacterial infection: viruses that fight bacteria.

Using Viruses to Fight Bacteria:

Viruses called bacteriophages target specific germs without doing damage to host tissue. They have been used for more than half a century in countries like Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine.

Now, researchers from George Mason and Colorado State University have tested specific viruses to treat intestinal infections. The PHAGE study included 31 people with severe intestinal distress (American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, Nutrition 2018, Boston, June 10, 2018). Volunteers took either targeted viruses or placebo in daily capsules for one month. After two weeks without any pills (known as a wash-out period), they received the opposite treatment.

Less Inflammation and Better Gut Bacteria:

The scientists noted decreases in inflammation and healthy changes in gut ecology in the volunteers taking bacteriophage viruses. There were no side effects from this therapy. If more bacteriophage therapies can be developed and accepted to fight bacteria, antibiotic resistance might become less of a threat.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I keep popping up positive for MRSA (which is called an antibiotic-resistant) each time I have a surgical procedure, if this was developed in the USA and worked out that would be great. I do think this is a good idea

I still think fecal transplants would be a better solution. What else these viruses do is a concern.

Interesting and important discussion at the end of the abstract: “There were no major perturbations to the microbiota as indicated by alpha and beta diversity measures, suggesting that bacteriophage consumption is selective and does not globally disrupt the microbiota. Changes in differential abundance of several key bacterial species, including reductions OTU’s most closely mapping to the pathogen Clostridium perfringens, were observed.” Hopefully, decades of indiscriminate use of bactericidal therapies have opened our eyes to the fact that not all bacteria cause disease and that many are essential for health.

A very promising and creative approach! I would think it would need to be monitored carefully to ensure that the bacteriophages are targeting the desired pathogens, not our friendly flora, and that they are not swapping genes with other viruses or other sources in our bodies that would alter their behavior.

Great idea, but if not “invented in USA” and marketable by big pharma, the wisdom from these other countries from the former Soviet Union probably won’t be accepted.

This says (implies) that all 31 people took bacteriophages or placebo and then the opposite, so they ALL got the bacteriophages, but then says that the effects were noted in those who took the bacteriophages. Am I missing something?

The volunteers were randomly assigned to take either placebo or bacteriophage first. The ones that got placebo first than took bacteriophage later, and vice versa. This is known as a cross-over study design, and explains the wash-out period between them. The relief in symptoms happened only when people were taking bacteriophage capsules. It was not a lasting cure.

For several years, after a course of antibiotics, I suffered from collagenous colitis, it’s GI symptoms (chronic daily diarrhea, bloating, gas) managed by the steroid budesonide–until this expensive drug no longer worked. In desperation, I cut out dairy and moved to a more plant-based dietary. That helped. Then I began taking daily probiotics, along with prebiotics to feed them, and bacteriophages to reduce “the bad guys” while I increased the “friendly flora.”

This combination gradually, over a year’s time, has eliminated my collagenous colitis symptoms and transformed my bowel habits into a model of gentle regularity–better than ever before. I cannot say with any certainty what the relative contribution of each of my “three-part treatment” components might be, but I think the combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and bacteriophages covers all the bases for great gut health.

I am delighted. And it seems the members of my microbiota are too. We live in harmony once more.

Less expensive than drugs?

How will the Doctor-Medical Complex make money that way ?

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