World Wide Words logo

Phage therapy

Antibiotics have been so overused, not only in medicine but also to promote the growth of farm animals, that many bacterial diseases are becoming resistant to them. The fear is that we may be thrown back to the period before antibiotics, when diseases we now think minor were killers. One suggestion for a new way of attacking resistant bacteria has recently been reported to the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. It comes from a group in Tbilisi in Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, who have been researching viruses that kill bacteria. Such a virus is called a bacteriophage, usually shortened to phage. The full term comes from bacterium, plus the Greek phagein, to eat. So a phage is an eater, and phage therapy puts phage viruses to work inside the body to destroy the disease-causing bacteria. Because any given phage only attacks a single bacterium, and has no effect on human cells, it promises to be a highly targeted therapy. It’s likely to be a slow-acting cure, and we’ve a long way to go before it becomes common, if it ever does. However, it has recently been reported that a Canadian woman has been cured of a antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection by a form of phage therapy.

Phage therapy isn’t the only alternative to antibiotics, but it has great promise.

Independent on Sunday, Sep. 1999

Scientists say the success of “phage therapy” ... could represent an important step in the war against multi-resistant bacteria.

Daily Telegraph, Sep. 1999

Page created 2 Oct. 1999

Support World Wide Words and keep this site alive.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-pha3.htm
Last modified: 2 October 1999.