Phages May be the Answer to the 'Antibiotic Apocalypse'

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A recent study presented at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting in Boston may have raised hopes about a new way to combat the Antibiotic Apocalypse. As bacteria become more resistant to our current medications, there is a real risk that soon we not be able to treat infections.

Worryingly, this means that we could see death rates soar.

But by using ‘phages’, it seems we could attack bacteria in a new way.

Phages Study Reveals New Attack

While many bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, the use of phages is promising. These tiny organisms are viruses that attack, kill and reproduce inside bacteria. But can we train them to attack what we like? This new study conducted by Dr Taylor Wallace claims so. He says (as reported);

“(Phages) are a wonderful alternative to antibiotics…These are selective, you don’t have any problem with bacterial resistance … and they are safe.”

In an investigation, 16/32 patients with bowel symptoms were given a cocktail of phages designed to attack e.coli (a common but often nasty bacteria.) The remaining 16 were given a placebo. The patients then swapped regimens two weeks through the four week study.

Surprisingly, the patients showed lower levels of uncomfortable symptoms, a reduction in an inflammation related protein and most importantly, a decrease in the levels of targeted bacterial species. And this was all without any side effects noted.

Still More To Be Done

However, the study still requires further review. It remains to be clear whether the patients’ symptoms were due to e.coli or not, if their drop in e.coli was due to a uncharacteristically high base level, or whether the effects seen would persist beyond four weeks.

With further work the promising findings of this experiment may provide a clearer motive for phage-based treatments. And with antibiotics facing a short future, it may be that phages are just what the doctor ordered.

So what do you think? Are we doing enough to fight back against bacteria? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, if you found this interesting then please help us out by sharing.

Dr Benjamin Janaway is an NHS Doctor who graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2014 with degrees in Medicine and Neuropathology. You can find more of his writing here, where this originally appeared.