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Phage therapy

Phage therapy

Honey bees in a hive in Västeråker, Sweden. However, this hive does not suffer from American foulbrood.

Photo: Karl-Erik Johansson (BVF, SLU).

Lytic bacteriophages (phages) can be used to kill bacteria and, in principle, also to treat bacterial infectious diseases. Because more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics that are used for treatment, the interest of using phage therapy has increased. However, there are both advantages and problems in using phage therapy for treatment. One advantage is that phages are extremely specific and the do not affect any other bacteria than the host species and of course not eukaryotic cells. This means the the microbial gut flora of the host animal is not disturbed by phage treatment. The high specificity is, however, also a drawback, since a phage is not only specific  for a certain bacterial species, but also to only one single strain av that species. This means that a complete cocktail of phages containing types that are specific to all pathogenic strains of the actual species, are need for a successful treatment. Phage therapy is still in the experimental stage, but many researchers believe that it has great potential in both human and veterinary medicine, because results of some successful experiments have been published. For instance, American foulbrood in honey bee larvae, which is caused by Paenibacillus larvae, has been successfully treated by phage therapy.

Updated: 2018-05-30.

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Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences