These viruses will someday save us from death. Here’s how they work

(ORDO NEWS) — One of the most important problems of modern medicine is antibiotic resistance. But scientists have a way to overcome it.

Antibiotics are no longer as effective today as they were a hundred years ago. But they can be replaced by bacteriophages.

In a petri dish in a laboratory in Tbilisi , there is a battle between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the “good” viruses, bacteriophages. This small country has pioneered research into an innovative way to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are becoming more dangerous as they adapt to antibiotics.

Long ignored in the West, bacteriophages – viruses that literally “eat” bacteria – are now being used in some of the most complex medical cases.

For example, there is a well-known case of a Belgian woman who developed a life-threatening infection after being injured in the 2016 Brussels airport bombing. After two years of unsuccessful antibiotic treatment, bacteriophages sent from Tbilisi cured her infection in three months.

How bacteriophages work

Phages have been known to scientists for a century, but they were undeservedly forgotten after antibiotics revolutionized medicine in the 1930s. The man who did the most to develop them, the Georgian scientist Georgy Eliava, was executed in 1937 by order of the notorious Lavrenty Beria.

Eliava worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris with the French-Canadian microbiologist Felix d’Herelle, one of the two people credited with discovering phages, and convinced Stalin to invite him to Tbilisi in 1934. But their collaboration was cut short when Beria killed Eliava, although his motive is still a mystery.

However, when it became clear that traditional antibiotics no longer cope with some bacteria, and the side effects of their use can become an indirect cause of death, scientists began to think about alternative options for combating microorganisms.

The most promising of them are bacteriophages. Bacteria cannot yet oppose anything against these huge viruses: phages simply feed on them, and it will be very difficult for bacteria to develop a protective mechanism against this. We should also not forget that bacteriophages can evolve.

Although phage-based drugs cannot completely replace antibiotics, the researchers say they have several significant advantages: they are cheap, have no side effects, and do not damage organs or intestinal microflora.

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