Bacteriophages vs Antibiotics
10/3/2015 0 Comments
In modern times, we tend to lean more towards the use of antibiotics to help us kill bacteria. This, of course, isn’t helping us, but it is helping the bacteria. You see, bacteria are able to adapt to the medication that we use to kill them; this is due to an over or under usage of antibiotics. Luckily scientist have managed to look into a new form of medication that can push the medical and science fields forward. This new medication is known as phage therapy: the use of bacteriophages against bacterial pathogens.
Firstly, phage therapy has been a medical technique first used in Russia and Poland since WW 2. Bacteriophages are like your common viruses; however, they are more unique to bacteria. No two bacteriophages are alike, which is why they affect specific strains of bacteria. They attach to the bacteria through specific cell-receptors which allows them to corrupt that cell and replicate itself. Once all of the bacterial cells are dead that were targeted, the viruses die off themselves. They have served their purpose. In addition, seeing that they come from nature and are meant to target specific bacteria, they are virtually harmless to humans. Not only can they be used in combination with antibiotics; but, phages are non toxic, no side effects, and we never have to worry about them running out.
Secondly, bacteria are able to become resistant to bacteriophages. Just not in the same sense as they would to antibiotics. The pathogens shed their receptors that allow the viruses to enter their cellular structure. However, there are two things wrong with this: one, the scientist in Russia decided to make “phage cocktails”, these phage cocktails have a mixture of different phages that enter the bacteria in different ways; and two, these viruses have a higher mutation and replication rate that can outcompete the adaptation of the bacteria. Thus limiting their resistance to bacteriophages.
Lastly, these bacteriophages are stronger than most believe. Studies show that phages are effectively fighting the antibiotic resistant ear-infections and chronic ulcers. Including, Graham Hatfull, a biology professor and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Bacteriophage institute, states that, “these bacteriophages can possible treat acne, help food safety preparation, and cure people from practically any illnesses caused by a bacterial pathogen”. Plus, these viruses can even neutralize deadly superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus); which has resistantces to most antibiotics and has become a major problem in hospitals, nursing homes, and intensive care units. These tiny viruses got a chunk of the DNA from the bacterium’s immune system. Scientist have no idea how this has happened, but bacteriophages have somehow transformed the adaptive immune systems of bacterial pathogens into a weapon against them.
On the other hand, as great as bacteriophages are, they do come with a few drawbacks. They can interact with immune systems, and result in harmful immune responses; however, little evidence has actually shown concern during the treatment. Phages only attack a specific strain of bacteria, which is good because it won’t attack your personally bacteria. Bad, because there could be other bacteria or mutations of them that they won’t target. Also, infections whose agents are hidden in the interior of human cells may be inaccessible to phages. In addition, phages that enter the bloodstream are recognized by the human immune system. Which means over time the body will build antibodies for them. Yet, not even these drawbacks can compare to the pluses of the phage therapy treatment over antibiotics.
? In conclusion, bacteriophages are a great form of treatment to consider for replacing antibiotics. Antibiotics, allow the bacterial pathogens to grow stronger due to them mutating and becoming resistant to the medication. However, phages are able to beat this adaptive technique, and kill superbugs like MRSA. These viruses are endless, and far more effective when it comes to neutralizing bacterial pathogens compared to antibiotics. In other words, it all comes down to how the research goes for phage therapy. As I can say, through my research, bacteriophages can bring medical treatment forward. We wouldn’t necessarily have to take medication everyday, nor would we have to worry about the side effects of medication. Just like everything, bacteriophages have drawbacks. Unlike antibiotics, however, the viruses’ drawbacks are nothing compared to what they can give us. At the same time, they shouldn’t be dismissed either. So, it all comes down to what phage therapy can offer, compared to the standard antibiotic treatment. To phage or not to phage? Thank you!
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