Bacteriophage: A virus that can save your life

Highlight:-

  • Excessive use of antibiotics can result in the creation of drug-resistant bacteria
  • Bacteria have a positive as well as a negative impact of human life
  • Bacteriophage target bacteria’s and settle as a resident in their cell
  • 70% of marine bacteria are infected by bacteriophage.

 

 

Fungal Infection, bacterial infection are the two common infections, humans have encountered both these infections at least once in their lifetime. Although fungal infection is easy to treat as it is visible from the surface and the medicines have a very low or no side effect at all on the human body, on the other hand, bacterial infection may take some time to surface and the intake of medicine can lead to very interesting outcomes.

So the primary question how do we come in contact with bacteria and why are they hard to treat?

Firstly bacteria is a single cell organism that develops and survives excellently in a diverse atmosphere, these single-celled organisms can be found everywhere, from the depth of the oceans to the human intestines, but humans have never understood the relations between them and bacteria, sometimes they are our friendly neighbors who help us make curd, bread, etc. sometimes they can attack our system and gift us dangerous diseases such as pneumonia and methicillin, etc.

The massive majority of bacteria are harmless to people and some bacteria are even beneficial. In the human intestinal tract, the good bacteria help in digestion and produce vitamins, many bacteria help enhance the immune system which ends up making the body less hospitable to bad bacteria. When considering all the bacteria that exist in this world, comparatively very few are capable of making people sick.

You can transmit the bacterial infection from anywhere in the environment, as unlike viruses, bacteria can survive without a host. Food poisoning is one of the common outcomes of harmful bacteria, few of the bacterial infections can be noticed on the skin, such as boils, Impetigo, Cellulitis, etc. while few other bacterial infections can be transmitted through sexual interaction such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, etc. these bacterial infections can prove to be fatal if not treated on time.

Bacteria’s are comparatively harder to kill as compared to viruses because, the viral infections can directly be treated by attacking the DNA of viruses, but the bacteria’s cannot be killed in a similar manner, instead the bacteria’s need to be walled first so they would stop multiplying and then attack their enzymes, although bacteria’s don’t give up so easily, they keep adapting and developing resistance to the treatment they are receiving, and over the time they can completely protect themselves from the attack on them.

 

What can be used to fight bacterial infections?       

               

Antibiotics are the medicines used to treat bacterial infections, the medicines unlike the Paracetamols should be taken with extreme caution and with doctor’s prescription only, and the first rule of antibiotics is to try not to have antibiotic medicine, and the second rule is to not have too many antibiotics. The key factor with antibiotics is that if you consume Antibiotics when you don’t need them, they may not work when you need them.

Before consuming antibiotics ensure that you really need them, antibiotics cannot fight viruses and thus are useless against common flu, etc. sometimes all our body needs is a lot of liquid and a rest day for everything to function properly and for the immune system to show its magic, instead of antibiotic medication you can ask for antibiotic ointment for some painful cases like pink eye or a swimmers ear. But if it is absolutely necessary to consume antibiotics make sure you follow all the doctors’ instructions and prescribed course, and consider the side effects of antibiotics.

Antibiotics also come with a higher numbers of side effects such as diarrhea, fungal infection, loss of appetite, etc. moreover if a person is introduced to antibacterial medicines at a young age, the probability of that kid developing obesity is very high, and the patient may also develop hypersensitivity or allergic reactions to particular elements. Although antibiotics are considerably cheaper in price, the unnecessary consumption of antibiotics can be very dangerous.

If unnecessary or inadequate portion of antibiotic medicine is consumed, the bacteria’s may develop resistance to that particular antibiotic, and thus stronger and stronger antibiotics are prescribed and designed, but until a certain stage, after this, the bacteria become super resistant to the drugs and starts heavily affecting the patient, with no treatment this could prove to be fatal to the human being.

This is the point of no return, the fatality rate at this juncture is 3.7% that is nearly double the currently most feared disease the COVID-19. And therefore it makes drug-resistant bacteria are the second most deadly living thing on planet earth. At this point the bacteria is growing in multiples and is too much for the immune system to handle on its own, thus the body begins to weaken and complex bodily functions are on the brink of failure as all the energy is focused on fighting the intruder, but in majority of the cases the immune system isn’t enough, thus humans reached out for external help.

This helper is the bacteriophage, Bacteriophage is a word derived from Greek meaning devour of bacteria’s, Bacteriophage is the most dangerous living thing on the surface of planet earth, it is a virus and is the most common and diverse entity available in the biosphere, bacteriophage are found in every place that bacteria’s exist. The densest place for their existence is the microbial mats on the surface of marine life, it is believed 70% of marine bacteria are infected by bacteriophage.

Following the traits of the virus family, the virus retains its feature of being smaller than any bacteria, this feature provides the virus with tactical benefit in the war with bacteria, the bacteriophage is the virus that feasts on the bacteria’s, as soon as it is inserted in the body. It attacks the bacteria, attaches itself to the bacteria, injects its DNA in the bacteria and then using the cytoplasm in those bacteria’s new bacteriophage are born and they blast out of the bacteria, thus killing the bacteria and creating new bacteriophage.

Bacteriophages have been used as a method of treatment since the late 19th century as a substitute for antibiotics in the USSR, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia as well as in France. Bacteriophages are seen as a promising treatment against multi-drug-resistant strains of bacteria. There are 27 types of Bacteriophages in the world.

 

The functioning of bacteriophages is considerably complicated and a process that is intriguing and effective at the same time. Bacteriophages were first discovered to be antibacterial agents and used in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. However, the western world did not subscribe to this idea and instead opted for an aggressive push for the use of antibiotics.

The major reason for which was, during that era antibiotics were very easy to make, store and prescribe, they were heavily marketed, there were many trials carried out to test the efficiency of bacteriophages, but due to the lack of understanding of its functioning, many questions were raised over the validity of these trails. The research material on bacteriophages and its functioning were written in Russian languages for many years and thus were not followed globally.

The first regulated clinical title was done in the year 2009, which was published in the Wound care journal for the year, this test was done on a human suffering through venous ulcers, a cocktail of bacteriophages was used to treat the patient, the result of the test was enough to prove the safety of therapeutic, but the results weren’t clear to showcase the efficiency. While the second study confirmed that bacteriophages are effective and safe for the treatment of chronic ear infection in human beings. After that, there have been several trials to test the efficiency of particular wounds, infected burns, lung infections, cysts, etc.

FDA has approved several iterations of bacteriophages, various researches are continued to test and discover never medicines to solved various bacterial problems, the research is also been conducted on dairy animals and dairy products to pair the bacteriophage to eliminate bacterial infections. The number of bacteria is never a worry for bacteriophage as they multiply after every instance with every bacterial cell as they follow the lysogenic cycle. In this process the bacteria do not die out instantly, instead, their virus-related genome will incorporate with bacterial DNA and reproduce along with it, it remains dormant until the situation of the host(Bacteria) starts depleting, this depletion begins because of the nutrients absorbed by the viruses and lack of nutrients for the host bacteria

As the viruses reproduced through the multiplication of bacteria’s, they have now infested the bacteria and thus begins the new lysogenic cycle, sometimes it may result in unknowingly giving more power to the bacteria, and thus causing cholera, diphtheria, etc. although few ways to tackle and destroying a bacteria include targeting these toxic-encodings. The process of multiplication in bacteriophage sometimes includes Release of virions, these elements attack the cell wall of the bacteria to break it down, then the released virions are free and are capable of infecting new bacteria’s, and even they do not directly kill the host, instead, they stay in the bacteria as a long term resident as prophage.

 

How safe is it to use the world’s dangerous living thing to kill the world’s second dangerous living thing?

After understanding how bacteria’s work and how the viruses work, you would not be considered to be paranoid if you are worried about the fusion of two deadliest living things on the planet earth, and how dangerous and hazardous it can be if the move backfires. And what will happen if the bacteria find a way to fight out the viruses. The simple answer to this is it won’t happen because bacteriophage is the predators and bacteria is the prey, bacteriophage needs a host body to survive and they would need to attack and get attached to the bacteria’s, which would continue the process of the lysogenic cycle and resulting in the death of bacteria.

The second worry might be what happens if the number of bacteriophages outgrown in our body, will the then start affecting us and harming us, what will we do to fight them?                     

The first concern is will they attack us after they are done attacking bacteria’s, or can they attack our cells when they are also attacking other bacteria’s, the answer to this is also very basic, microphage cannot attack human cells, they would not be able to hack into human cells and even if they do, humans are very efficient in controlling a viral attack as compared to a bacterial, if the viral attack is just on the surface of the skin, it can easily be treated only by rubbing medicated alcohol, etc.

The other way to fight viruses is with the help of antibodies, WBC is very well equipped to fight viruses, thus the antibodies identify and attach themselves to the virus so that the WBC can mark and understand the intruder, and then WBC just surrounds it and destroys them.

Are humans using Bacteriophages for anything else?

The bacteriophage is also helping humans to understand the environment, bacteriophages are used in hydrological tracing and modeling in the river systems, especially in the region where surface water and groundwater meet each other. The use of bacteriophages is preferred as compared to the conventional dye marker method as they are considerably less absorbed when passing through the groundwater, and they can easily be detected at the lower concentrations of water bodies.

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