No more antibiotics: Using viruses to kill bacteria

As antibiotics have begun to create resistant bacteria, scientists have begun looking for alternatives. One type of virus, bacteriophages, look promising.

For a long time, antibiotics seemed to be a panacea.

If you ever had a sniffle, you wanted the doctor to give you an antibiotic -- even if your sniffle was due to a virus and you knew, theoretically, that antibiotics had no effect on viruses.

But those days are long gone, now that antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are, frightfully, becoming more common and probiotics are all the rage.

And that means that the quest to find alternative ways to kill off bacterial infections is more urgent than ever.

By the end of the year, ContraFect Corporation, a Yonkers, N.Y., biotech firm, will begin testing bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria and destroy them, to see if they could be a good alternative to treating bacterial infections.

Scientific American interviewed ContraFect microbiologist Dr. Vincent Fischetti about the work the company is doing, which includes:

  • developing phage-lytic enzymes to prevent infection -- to decolonize people of pathogenic bacteria
  • creating treatments that attack bio-films, an accumulation of organisms that prevent antibiotics from getting into infected areas; they are especially difficult to treat because they are not growing, and antibiotics attack organisms that are growing

This video below is a condensed version of an interview that Scientific American conducted with Dr. Fischetti:

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via: Scientific American

photo: Bacteriophage P2 under an transmission electron microscope (Mfh1234/Wikimedia)

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