Bacteriophages, little-used for decades in the U.S. and much of Europe, are gaining new attention because of resistance to antibiotics. Doctors in the U.S. and much of Europe stopped using phages to fight bacteria when penicillin and other antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s. Now, though, Western scientists are turning back to this Stalin-era cure to help curb the dramatic growth of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
That resistance has become one of the biggest healthcare crises of our time, and public-health experts are desperate for new bacteria-fighting weapons, even old ones like phages. “We are at risk of losing the race here,” says Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This has the potential to undermine much of modern medicine.”