Nature’s own antibiotic – bacteriophage virus
Today, in this era of globalization, I find this subject quite relevant to write as it involves our past researches and at the same time can open a new door for the treatment of superbugs. Superbugs are those bacterias which are resistant to most of the known antibiotics.
According to Darwinian evolutionary theory, every living entity undergoes an evolutionary mechanism by which they better themselves so that they can maintain their existence through the process of ‘Natural Selection’. Bacterias are also no exception. Bacterias evolve themselves in order to survive and become resistant to antibiotics. It is almost like the ‘survival of the fittest’.
The main cause of it is overuse and misuse of antibiotics due to self-medications as well as by the physicians. Superbugs are expected to become one of the leading causes of deaths globally, overtaking even cancer in the next 30 years, according to a report commissioned by the UK government. These infections are also likely to cost the world as much as $100 trillion. That’s threatening both medically & financially. Imagine one small cut on your skin will be enough for your admission in the ICU and still you will be left with no options but to fall into the lap of death gradually. It is the time to act for a better future. We actually have the solution.
Bacteriophage. Yes, it might sound weird, but it is quite realistic and has been implicated for years in some countries like Georgia etc. In short it is also called ‘Phage Therapy’. Bacteriophage is the most abundant thing on earth. They even outplay the number of humans. These deadliest killers are responsible for killing more than 40% bacteria in ocean and keep the environment clean. Bacteriophage viruses are basically ‘Nature’s Own Antibiotic’ that keeps the balance.
The most useful nature of these viruses is – they do not harm human and they live on bacteria. So, it’s a ‘enemies’ enemy is our friend’ kind of situation. Once introduced into the patient’s body, they enter the target bacteria by infusing its genetic material. Replicate inside the host (bacteria) and ultimately rupture the bacterial cell by its endolysin enzyme.
Yes, TARGET bacteria! one type of phage is specific for one specific bacterial strain and hence it destroyed only the targeted one leaving behind the normal flora of the body. Hence,side effects are almost nil. Such mechanism provides us and forces us to think another way out to fight this superbug monsters. If we can prepare
the ‘ENDOLYSIN’ enzyme in pure form and modify it in such a manner that it ruptures the target superbug from outside then it can be far more promising because we do not need to introduce the virus into the human body then.
Instead, a specific enzyme will be used as an optimum drug to kill those superbugs. Now let’s come towards one of the most valuable points – RESISTANCE. Can these superbugs develop resistance against these bacteriophage viruses or lysins? Well, the answer is YES! But the worry is much lesser. Both bacteria and viruses are living entities. Phages being dependent on bacteria for their survival will also evolve accordingly if bacterias evolve. There is a good possibility that in order to become resistant towards phages, bacterias will have to sacrifice their resistance towards antibiotics!
In that case we might have our old weapon back in the form of antibiotics. Moreover, it took 75-80 years after the discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Flaming to become resistant. Even if we accept that bacterias develop some way to bypass phages, we must accept that it will give us another 100-150 years cushion to prepare new weapons against these enemies of humanity. So, may be on occasion of 150th or 200th year of ‘InnoHEALTH’ someone else will be writing on the same topic with different intervention.
But now the point is – if we have such an amazing weapon against our deadliest enemies, why don’t we use them? Of course, there is no ‘Bacteria Rights’ agency that might cause problem! But the main problem is – phages are millions billions everywhere, even inside our body. It’s a tough ask to recognize and isolate a specific type of phage that targets a specific bacteria from such huge pool. Plus, if such treatment is not recognized, no pharmaceutical company will be willing to invest billions on such project that is quite uncertain. One additional problem also comes in the way. Antibiotics that we use in modern days, are useful against more than one bacteria but here in this case, a single type of phage can be directed towards a single strain of bacteria only.
Hence for every single strain, different phages have to undergo laboratory testing for being accepted. That further increases the cost and time. Time! it is the most valuable thing we are lacking right now. We must act immediately to secure our future.
A bioscience company has come up with CASPR-cas3 system. This system basically damages the target DNA beyond repair. CASPR-cas3 shreds the DNA into pieces. If we can combine this system with bacteriophage therapy, imagine the phage virus will attack the target bacteria and CASPR-cas3 system will potentiate its action. But all these possibilities are far from being implemented in US. Food and Drug Administration must have to approve these treatment procedures to come into play. And gaining approval is a lengthy and strict procedure.
I believe India is a huge powerhouse for the future possibilities in Medicine. We just need to execute the talents properly. Let’s hope that our own country comes forward in such a noble task for mankind. There are some institutes in Georgia which have been working on these interventions for decades. Actually, they are successfully using bacteriophage medicines to cure deadly bacterial infections.
It is high time for the whole world to work hand to hand and show universal brotherhood. Together we can and we will. That day is not very far when superbugs will be curable. Sounds like a dream? Well maybe treating bacterial infections with the help of viruses is a little awkward but it is the future that is basically derived from the past.
It is the time for the young generation to take interest in the subject and work together for the safe and better future only. It is a matter of human existence.
Composed by Mahan Shome