Phage Therapy: Beneficial bacteria that boost your immune system (and lower cancer risk)
Could deliberately pumping beneficial bacteria into the human body improve health?
You bet! The technical word is a bacteriophage (which means “eater of bacteria”) or phage for short.  These special viruses can boost your immune system naturally, safely, and effectively because they are a virus that infects (and destroys) other bacteria. 
It’s possible to harness these little fighters for deliberate use — essentially pumping phages into a person challenged with a bacterial infection. This is called phage therapy.
In a study published in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy journal, researchers stated: “Bacteriophages are highly specific and very effective in lysing [dissolving] targeted pathogenic bacteria, safe as underscored by their extensive clinical use, and rapidly modifiable to combat the emergence of newly arising bacterial threats.” 
It’s a viable alternative to antibiotics. 
I’ve written extensively about the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The World Health Organization didn’t mince words. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” 
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The history of Phage Therapy
Phages were first identified by English microbiologist Frederick Twort in 1915 and again in 1917 by French Canadian microbiologist Felix d’Herelle. During the next decade, they were used to successfully treat dysentery, cholera, and staphylococcal skin disease.
During World War II, military physicians in Russia used phage therapy to treat wounds and gangrene.
The idea has been kept alive in Russia and Eastern Bloc countries, where phage therapies are used regularly. There was even some interest in the West, but after the discovery of antibiotics in the 1930s and 40s, doctors and scientists lost interest. (This was the case with the Rife machine and other antibiotic alternatives as well.)
Today, with the collapse of antibiotics and the emergence of dangerous drug-resistant bacteria, phage therapy is being re-introduced. Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.
There may come a time when your life (or the life of a loved one) will depend on billions of beneficial bacteria let loose in your body! People need to get over their natural revulsion at a virus infection. There are good guys out there! We have even developed oncolytic viruses, meaning they destroy cancer cells.
The specificity of beneficial bacteria
Bacteriophages are much more specific than antibiotics because one phage will only attack and “eat” one particular bacteria and no other. Each infection requires a particular phage to treat it. Phage mixtures are often applied to improve the chances of success. Samples can be taken of an infection and an appropriate phage identified and grown.
They’re considered harmless to the host organism (human, animal, or plant), but also to other beneficial bacteria (such as gut flora), thus reducing the chances of opportunistic infections. Their high safety factor means much fewer possible side effects.
Another big advantage is that, since phages replicate inside the patient, a smaller effective dose can be used initially and a repeat dose may be unnecessary.
At present, phages are being used to treat bacterial infections that do not respond to conventional antibiotics. They’re also effective for piercing the polysaccharide layer of biofilms that antibiotics are unable to penetrate.
“People need to get over their natural revulsion at a virus infection. There are good guys out there!”
Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby
Phage Therapy and cancer
As I’ve written for years, the conventional cancer treatment methods of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation (cut-poison-burn) are simply not the right choice for every patient. That’s why so many millions continue to die each year.
It has been well established that cancer has an immunological component — because your body is wired to destroy cancer cells before they take root. This is something your immune system does (and does well) every minute of every day. If it didn’t, we’d all be overtaken by the mutated or damaged cells inside our bodies at a much higher rate.
There were two eye-opening studies done in the past few years on phage therapy that caught my eye and enticed me into deeper study.
Researchers with the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy in Poland summarized their findings as follows: “Bacteriophages are a very differentiated group of viruses and at least some of them can influence cancer processes. Phages may also affect the immunological system. They activate the immunological response, for example, cytokine secretion. They can also switch the tumor microenvironment to one advantageous for anticancer treatment.” 
An additional study from Iran’s Department of Genetics at Tarbiat Modares University found even more reasons to include beneficial bacteria in cancer treatments. “[Bacteriophages’] genetic flexibility to go under a variety of surface modifications serves as a basis for phage display methodology. Moreover, the excellent safety profile of these viruses paves the way for their potential use as cancer gene therapy platforms. Beyond doubt, bacteriophages will play a more impressive role in the future of medical oncology.” 
Effective cancer therapies that use beneficial bacteria (instead of cell-destroying poison or radiation) have been possible since 1915 — but it wasn’t as flashy (or profitable) as other methods developed. We’re literally being backed into a corner with antibiotic resistance and have made little progress in cancer treatment that actually saves lives.
We must take another look at these safe and effective bacteriophages.
In the meantime, get yourself a copy of How To Survive In A World Without Antibiotics because you’re living in such a world already! Alternatives — such as phage therapy — will soon become the norm rather than the exception as our current antibiotics are rendered ineffective.
- Bacteriophage Journal: Phages in nature
- Scitable by Nature Education: Bacteriophag
- Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy: Bacteriophage Therapy
- World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Phage therapy: An alternative to antibiotics in the age of multi-drug resistance
- World Health Organization: Antibiotic Resistance
- Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy: Bacteriophages and cancer
- Department of Genetics – Tarbiat Modares University: Bacteriophages and medical oncology: targeted gene therapy of cancer.