Now, however, that antibiotic resistance is widespread, some physicians are evaluating the use of phages because of “their dynamic nature, complexity, specificity, and diversity.” The very reasons for previously ignoring them.
“While antibiotics offer fewer than two dozen mechanisms for killing bacteria, phages have vastly more. There are thousands of types of phages that can infect each bacterial species, making it nearly impossible to resist all of them. And even when the phage treatment does not kill the bacteria, it can force an “evolutionary trade-off” that often makes it more vulnerable to antibiotics.”
Scientists have verified that “the trillions of microbes that we harbor in our gut and others” actually “control everything from how we digest our food to how we feel.” Bacteria have been the focus for attention in this research, but more recently scientists have learned that “bacteriophages within us might play a singular role in protecting our health.” For example, test results have confirmed that phages identified in the stools of healthy donors very likely crucial in treating “recurrent and debilitating diarrhea cause by the bacterium Clostridium difficile.” Also, there is evidence that phages in our bodies communicate with our immune cells.
A “healthy” virome in our gut requires greater diversity in our diet. Eating less food containing preservatives, sugar, and artificial sweeteners, and instead consuming a greater diversity of plants is an eco-choice available to all of us.
Paul Turner, Rachel Carson Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology at Yale University, argues that we must protect wilderness “places that host the greatest diversity of animals and plants,” if we are also to discover diverse phages that may someday save human lives. Might advocating for wilderness preservation also be our eco-choice?
Daphne Miller, “Most viruses around us are benign; some are even lifesaving,"
The Washington Post, Mar. 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/
Photo: Biophoto Associates/Science Photo Library. Colored transmission
electron micrograph (TEM) of a T2 bacteriophage (pink) attached to a
bacterial cell wall fragment. Magnification x200,000.