Phage therapy vs antibiotics is now an interesting topic nowadays. The question may arise- can bacteriophage replace antibiotics or can bacteriophages kill superbugs or can phage therapy be better than antibiotics? Phage therapy has both pros and cons. That’s why the answer may be positive or negative.
In the era of antibiotic resistance, the phage is considered to be the best antibiotic alternative for global health. In discussing “phage therapy vs antibiotics”, we shouldn’t consider which is better. But recently phage has drawn extra attention to the scientists. Because, since the concept of phage therapy died out by 1940 due to commercial production of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance is emerging rapidly.
Phage therapy vs antibiotics:
- Adverse effect on host
- Killing good bacteria
- Rate of acquiring resistance
- The adverse effect on the environment
- Production cost
- Production difficulty
- Biofilm inhibition
- Reducing or enhancing bacterial pathogenicity
Adverse effect on host:
Phage therapy causes little or no harmful effect to the normal host cells. Because phage viruses replicate their genome only at the site of infection.
But antibiotic causes many adverse effects on the host cell. Moreover, broad-spectrum antibiotics cause superinfection like a yeast infection and clostridium associated colitis.
Killing good bacteria:
Phage virus is specific to a few strains of a specific bacterial species. So they don’t kill normal microbiota of the host.
But antibiotic such as broad-spectrum antibiotics kill many good bacteria of the host especially the good bacteria of the gut.
Rate of acquiring resistance:
Phage and antibiotics don’t kill the bacterial cell in the same way. So their evolution of acquiring resistance is also different. If bacteria become resistant to phage, phage retains their killing ability by evolving themselves. Because the rate of mutation in phage is higher than that of the pathogen.
On the other hand antibiotic is produced in the laboratory. When bacteria are resistant to phage, a scientist can’t produce antibiotics as we need.
The adverse effect on the environment:
Discarded phage doesn’t cause an adverse effect on the environment. Due to their specific host range, they don’t kill all the bacterial species in the environment. They kill only specific strains of bacterial species. Moreover, phage becomes inactivated with exposure of high temperature, desiccation or sunlight.
But broad-spectrum antibiotic kills a wide range of bacterial species in the environment. Because they interact with all the organisms when they come in contact with.
Phage production requires less amount of budget compared to antibiotic production. Phage is produced by multiplying in host bacteria. So it is relatively easier and less expensive to produce a large amount of phage than antibiotic production.
On the other hand, antibiotic production is very expensive and laborious. That is why only a few numbers of antibiotics were produced in recent decades.
As more phage are available in nature, it is easier to find phage virus to kill certain species of the bacterial pathogen.
But the emergence of bacterial resistance causes very difficultly to screen new antimicrobial drug.
When antibiotics become failed to inhibits biofilm formation, certain phage releases exopolymer-degrading depolymerase that make them degrade the outer surface of the cell and enter the cell membrane to infect each bacteria.
Reducing or enhancing bacterial pathogenicity:
Phage helps in reducing bacterial pathogenicity. When bacteria try to acquire phage resistance, they lose some phage receptor from their outer surface. These receptors are an important part of bacterial pathogenicity.
But in the process of antibiotic resistance, bacteria become more virulent to host cell.
In the controversy of phage therapy vs antibiotics, you can find phages are better than antibiotics. But phage therapy has some limitations too.