A scientific illustration of purple bacteriophages on the surface of a blue bacterium.

Power of Phages

What are phages?

Bacteriophages, or phages, are natural predators of bacteria. They are abundant everywhere - on land, in water, even within the human body. Since they only target bacteria, they are safe and cannot harm animals and humans. Thousands upon thousands of varieties exist, each evolved to infect only one or very few types of bacteria. Phages are much more specific than antibiotics and thus cause less collateral damage.

How do they work?

Phages are viruses of bacteria. Through specific protein-protein interactions between a phage and its specific bacterial host, phages are able to attach to a bacterium and insert their genetic material. Like other viruses, phages cannot replicate by themselves - they need bacteria. After they replicate, the phages split open the bacterium, releasing more of itself that can infect more bacteria in the surrounding area.

Because phages replicate, they can continue to make more of themselves and kill more bacteria in the process until they eliminate the infection. In addition, they can naturally evolve with the bacteria to overcome any resistance that may pop up. That is what makes phages so powerful as a medicine.