Potential Application of Bacteriophage in Decontaminating Biothreat Agents
Multidrug resistant bacterial infections have become a potent risk, globally and there is an urgent need to phage and phage-derived enzymes as a therapeutic agent. The risk is more prominent in underdeveloped nations, where high population density, poor drinking water, inadequate sanitary and health care facilities ease the spread of infection. Bacteriophages (or ‘phages’) are abundant in nature and highly specific in their infection and pathogenicity, allowing their isolation, enrichment and use against specific bacteria. Employing bacteriophages as a tool for neutralizing potential biological threat agents can thus be an effective approach towards preparedness for biothreat mitigation. Unlike chemical antibiotics, phages are self-propagating, i.e., starting with a small number they can sustain their population, do not affect non-target/ beneficial bacterial populations. The tremendous potential of bacteriophages has recently been shown in treating multidrug resistant bacterial infections in terminally ill human subjects with unprecedented success. The natural anti-bacterial properties can be harnessed for decontamination of food, water, crops and for many other purposes including pathogen reduction in wastewater etc. Additionally, with the advancement in genetic engineering, deliberate use of such engineered multidrug resistant bacteria by state/non-state players has also become a reality. Owing to their resistance to several of the available antibiotics, control and mitigation of emerging pathogens is going to be great challenge. In this context, bacteriophages could be of potential use, since these viruses specifically infect bacterial hosts, often leading to their destruction.
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