It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we treat illnesses

News: Antibiotics have become our preferred method of treatment nowadays.

This has made treatments more standardised with no customised treatment for individuals irrespective of their genetic diversity.

But, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has resulted in the emergence of antibiotic resistance, a worldwide health concern. Hence, we need to push for a better alternative medicine for the treatment of diseases.

In this context, restarting the research into phage therapy can help us to design customised treatment for every individual and every disease.

What is phage therapy?

It is a treatment protocol that involved the administration of specific bacteriophage viruses to persons suffering from identified bacterial diseases.

It has been proved successful against a range of diseases, from bubonic plague to cholera and dysentery.

However, owing to the advantages of Antibiotics over Phage therapy, the research in to latter has been restricted to a few countries.

What are the advantages of Antibiotics over Phage therapy?

Firstly, unlike bacteriophages that are specific, antibiotics are effective across a broad spectrum of infections, making them easy to administer even if the exact pathogen has not been identified.

Secondly, antibiotics are used for a wide range of purposes, from curing disease to speeding up the growth of livestock

What are the issues/concerns associated with the antibiotics?

Over-reliance on them has given rise to the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance. For instance, the World Health Organization had established a global action plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Recently, FAO has also launched an Action Plan on AMR (2021-2025)

A report by the US Center for Disease Control suggests that in the US alone, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur each year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths

In India, antibiotic resistance has led to the rise of superbugs, diseases seemingly resistant to multiple drugs.

Why Phage therapy can be renewed now?

First, given the targeted effectiveness of bacteriophages, these treatments have relatively fewer side effects and almost always result in a cure.

Second, with advances in genetic sequencing, it is now easier than ever before to identify infection-causing pathogens.

Third, advances in genetic sequencing have also made it possible for us to harvest phages from cured patients, giving us a relatively unlimited supply of therapeutic material.

What are the issues with shifting to phage therapy?

It will require us to completely overhaul our current thinking about pharmaceuticals. For example, Massive centralized facilities should be replaced by decentralized repositories of bacteriophages.

Because a virus that is effective against one strain of disease in Europe could well be ineffective against another strain of the same illness in India. So, phage therapy needs to be developed locally.

This will also require re-training of medical professionals to focus on accurately diagnosing specific pathogens.

Source: This post is based on the article “It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we treat illnesses” published in Livemint on 1st Dec 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF