[T]he world of medicine has revolutionized itself with the advent of the penicillin. There was a time when the diseases we considered the smallest were actually huge threats that would scare the living daylights out of whomever passed themselves off as physicians back in the day. But then penicillin was there to save the day. Other antibiotics soon followed and it wasn’t long before the standard prescription was an antibiotic to every other person with a runny nose.
Over the years, medicine evolved in different ways all over the world. While certain segments of the globe stuck to their more traditional ways of using herbal medicine many nations fast fell prey to the promise of using antibiotics for every possible ailment. It was during this time that antibiotics entered the mainstream and were to be found in every first aid case as a standard.
While the human health received great benefit from the discovery of the antibiotic and deaths from common diseases were averted to the maximum possible level there also followed a greater pain area that ensured the demise of the spearhead of western medicine to fall from its grace as the most useful tool in the fight against diseases.
Following the principle of evolution the bacteria evolved over time and the constant use of antibiotics ensured that the mutants among the microscopic specks of life carried the ill genes of the colony ahead into the future being immune to the corrosive effects of the antibiotic on the rest of its twin copies.
Today these bacteria have been christened with a name – the name is akin to the one used by their imaginary alien counterpart that holds only a single weakness in the form of a green rock and resides well within human folklore. Like Superman, these bacteria are now known to society as ‘Superbugs’ but unlike Superman this type of bacteria is very real.
One of these superbugs is called NDM 1. The bacteria known by its abbreviation caused alarm and panic along the most farthest reaches of the medical community after it was first detected in India. A foreigner had acquired it from the country in December 2009. Since then multiple cases of the superbug have been diagnosed with many of them uncovered in the western hemisphere of the globe. A single death has also been reported from the superbug. The second such antibiotic resisting bacteria was MCR 1. The MCR 1 gene allows the bacteria that exhibit it to resist the last resort antibiotic known as polymixin. The bug originated in China and a case was seen in the United States in a woman from Pennsylvania.
These two dangerous mutations resist even the most powerful human made venoms and are a cause of huge concern to the international health organizations all over the world. With the onset of such murderous bugs appearing in large numbers across the globe a tilt towards use of alternative medicine is appearing once again.
In a report published by the World Health Organization or the WHO in 2014, the organization claimed that the current levels of antibiotic resistance is a ‘global threat’ to people all over the globe. The organization further stated that it believed humanity was going to enter a ‘post antibiotic’ era very soon.
Other health experts from all over the globe also believe in this thesis. There have been many publications in the UK by leading medical experts that have attempted to bring to light the concern among the general public. Regardless of these constant warnings the majority of medical practitioners remain unconcerned and still resort to the practice of grossly over prescribing antibiotics to all their patients. As such the world seems well on its way to enter the ‘post antibiotic’ era very soon.
The Promising Alternative to Antibiotic
Although there are many claimed alternatives to the use of antibiotics, there was an alternative medicine that was already being utilized in the eastern part of the globe in a nation formerly known as the USSR.
America’s biggest enemy back in the day used the therapy to effectively disinfect its people from various bacterial induced diseases during the cold war period as they were denied the benefit of having access to antibiotics. The therapy is still used till this day in Russia, Poland and Georgia.
The treatment involving bacteriophage is known as ‘Phage therapy’ and involves the insertion of the virus into the body via an oral medium in the most common method of administering of a dosage. A bacteriophage is in actuality a virus. It works by targeting a specific strain of bacteria and injecting it with its DNA eventually disrupting the metabolic function of the bacteria and causing it to ‘lyse’ or self destruct.
Phage therapy holds a lot of advantages over antibiotics as the target range of the phage is very specific and generally it will avoid harming other kinds of bacteria when wiping of its target. This is particularly beneficial to the gut bacteria that are beneficial to human beings but are damaged by traditional medicine. Although bacteria can develop resistance to bacteriophage as well it is generally more challenging for the microbes to produce such a mutation.
Western interest has piqued once again in the science of phage therapy and it maybe that very soon the therapy maybe approved for clinical trials on human beings. Currently, bacteriophage are used in industrial applications in the United States and are being explored as a very viable fall back plan when antibiotics stop working. The real challenge is convincing people to use phage therapy. Since it is a virus, most people are still scared of consuming the ‘Phage cocktail’. Unfortunately, regardless of peoples’ fears there maybe no choice left in the future.