Introduction to Phage Therapy
The discovery of a heat-labile, bacteria-killing substance that could pass through extremely small filters was discovered several times:
|Year||Discoverer, microbe targeted by phage|
|1896||Hankin, British bacteriologist working on Vibrio cholerae|
|1898||Gamaleya, Russian, Bacillus subtilis|
|1915||Twort, British, Staphylococcus|
|1917||d'Herelle, French-Canadian, Shigella. Coined the term "bacteriophage".|
The first therapeutic usage of phage was in 1919, to treat a child with severe dysentery. In a classic case of old-school science, the lead researchers (which included d'Herelle) drank portions of the bacteriophage preparation the day before treating the child, to check the treatment's safety in humans. The child fully recovered within a few days, and further tests confirmed the result.
In the 1930s and 1940s, bacteriophage preparations were developed and sold by L'Oréal and the Eli Lilly Company. The development and mass production of antibiotics in the late 1940s halted research into phage therapy in the West, due to the superior efficacy and simplicity of antibiotics.