Bacteriophage/phage are viruses that infect bacteria, they are lethal to bacteria by replicating within them to kill them. They are found, highly concentrated, in the world's oceans. Phage therapy has been a viable alternative since 1917, when a French Canadian doctor noticed bacteriophages invariably appeared shortly before his patients fully recovered from pathogenic bacterial infections. Phages have been used in dentistry, veterinary medicine, agriculture and in human medicine. This therapy spread worldwide between WW1 and WW2, however, once penicillin, which killed everything, was discovered in 1928, antibiotics dominated. Phage based treatments were abandoned.
Russia, Georgia and Poland led research into bacteriophage. There is presently, an inexhaustible supply of phages, with no two identical phages yet to be discovered. The similarity to vaccines for influenza ensures stocks of phages are regularly updated ensuring resilient bacteria are countered by the mix of phages.
San Francisco based EpiBiome are collaborating with the Hirszfeld Institute, Warsaw, Poland where phage therapy has been used for decades and are now focusing on bovine agriculture as an alternative to antibiotics with the objective of eradicating bacterial infections and the improvement of the overall clinical status of many patients.
Bacteriophage interact, forming hybrids, are capable of transferring toxin/virulence genes to harmless bacterial strains enabling them to cause disease, naturally with potential adverse consequences of using phages for therapy. Phage therapy involves the simultaneous use of mixtures of different phages to ensure efficient killing of target bacterial species. The destruction of commensal bacteria must be avoided. Antibiotic immunity drives bacteriophage research, the loss of a century of surgical advances is an alarming prospect. Current antibiotic usage threatens the risk/benefit ratio of a commonplace surgical procedure.