Heard an interesting story on the World Service last night, concering the use of bacteriophages to combat bacterial infections. The idea is these are viruses that only infect specific strains of bateria and kill them, which can be used in place of antibiotics.|
The benefits over antibiotics are that they're generally easier to find than new antibiotics are, since they're constantly evolving just as the bacteria are (and are thought to be the most common organism on earth). You also only need to take one or two small doses, since once the phages have found the infection they'll multiply to consume it.
The main downside is that since these were discovered just before World War 1, a couple of world wars slowed developments, and then in 1941 antibiotics started to be commercialised. They're still a big deal in the former USSR, but they really require a big investment in infrastructure, as you can't just be prescribed phages - you need to submit a sample first so that can analyse exactly what infection you've got. And they need to be kept cool, or they'll go off. And YOU'RE FUCKING DRINKING LIVE VIRUSES! ARE YOU MENTAL?
I don't seem to be able to link to the specific episode of the programme on the bbc website, but it's currently the latest episode on this podcasts list entitled 'HC: Bacteriophages, Fukushima mental health', and there's a flash player for it there, or you can download the mp3 podcast directly (9MB).