Lifesaving Deadly Weapon: Bacteriophage

Lifesaving Deadly Weapon: Bacteriophage

What an interesting creature, isn’t it? How weak we actually are under our seemingly resilient nature or death-defying science. Creatures that are too tiny to see with the naked eye can turn our lives upside down and even kill us. Although viruses recently won the “most popular little creature of the year” award, their slightly overweight relatives, bacteria, are still on the agenda as well. These small but dangerous creatures have been the reason behind many deaths in history. So, is it possible for us to control the little brother and use it against the bigger one?

Why Are We Still Looking For An Alternative Method If Antibiotics Are Available?

Thanks to antibiotics, we no longer die from” the inflammation of a cut wound like we used to. We found penicillin and it led us to antibiotics. So we used antibiotics when it was necessary or not and hence we removed the sharp teeth of our former killer. These past few centuries went on very effectively indeed. The problem is that our surviving enemies are becoming more vindictive and resistant to us with each passing day.

Weak bacteria died by succumbing to our antibiotics, but some did not. This gave rise to strong bacteria and even stronger ones. Now, these angry bacteria seek revenge. Antibiotics have no or less effect on them.  According to the data of AMR (American Medical Response), 23,000 people die every year in America due to these resistant bacteria.

It’s okay to be a little nervous, but we are not completely alone in this war. For thousands of years, bacteria have had another enemy besides us, bacteriophages. Let’s meet the enemy of our enemy.


Virus Inside Bacteria: Bacteriophage

The bacteriophage is a bacterial killer that lives in our bodies or actually anywhere in nature, you can think of. They get on above the bacteria and inject their own children into them. In a short time, thousands of bacteriophages form inside the bacteria and eventually the poor bacteria die. With this victory, the bacteriophage feeds itself and begins to hunt new bacteria with its newly formed children.

Well, you may ask what will be the harm to us, but do not be afraid, there is not the slightest data that bacteriophages are harmful to us. We are just a being that is in the same room as them but we never speak to each other. They use us as a base and destroy our enemy for their own needs. How beautiful isn’t it? It’s like buying carnivorous plants to kill flies.


Locked on Target

The advantages of this effective weapon are uncountable, but there is one more really impressive feature. Antibiotics attack nearly every bacteria in the body. They cannot distinguish between beneficial and harmful. In other words, what we call antibiotics is like bombing an area captured by terrorists. Terrorists die, but the region is also damaged. Bacteriophages are like snipers. They only kill what they want.


The question may have come to your mind: “Bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics over time, what if they develop the same resistance against these phages?

You are not wrong, but you do not need to think about it for now. Bacteria do not yet have such resistance, in fact, phages are actually “tale as old as time”. In other words, there is not much data that bacteria can develop such resistance so far.


When Will We Actively Use Bacteriophages?

Oh, and there’s another beauty that looks like it just came out of the lottery. Even if they can develop resistance to phages, they will lose their resistance to antibiotics this time. In other words, they can only develop resistance to either one. So, even if this potential ally, whose existence we have just learned, loses its power, we will be able to fill its gap.

You asked me questions in certain parts of the article, didn’t you? Maybe now you’re saying, “Well, then why don’t we use this as a weapon?”. Actually, we are using this weapon, but the situation is that we cannot put a new weapon into use without fully understanding it, right? 

This weapon needs to be approved by authorities such as the Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization. Especially since 2016, this potential weapon of ours has been tested and everything seems to be going well so far. So I hope in a few years these snipers will show their strength on our enemies in a much more systematic way. Well, we are left with no choice but to say good luck to our new allies who can help us in our death-defying challenges.

References and Further Reading

Kurzgesagt. (n.d.). The deadliest being on Planet Earth – YouTube. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Mayer, G. (n.d.). BAKTERİYOFAJ . Bakteri̇yofaj. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, November 10). Bacteriophage . Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Images not cited are used through Canva Pro with a royalty payment.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Tufan Özdemir

Hello there! I'm Tufan Özdemir. I am a philosophy student at METU. Philosophy has been a big part of my life and my life. For this reason, most of my articles on this site are on philosophy.

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