As we sit here and read this, the world is at war with a virus. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is formally called, has wreaked havoc around the world. In just the past 24 hours, there has been a massive spike in confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the US, while Italy continues to struggle with each passing day setting new unfortunate records of the daily death toll. Authorities globally are asking us to do everything possible to stay protected from this virus, by practicing social distancing, isolating ourselves, washing our hands regularly with soap and generous use of hand sanitizers. And yet, here we have a startup which is sharing a rather novel idea, though the timing is a bit perplexing.
Felix Biotechnology, a biotech startup says that it wants to fight bacterial infections with, yep you didn’t guess it, viruses. This may just be a bad time to broach this idea, isn’t it? What they say is that a lot of people die of bacterial infections globally every year and will continue to do so. Drug resistant bacteria kills as many as 700000 people around the world every year and could kill more than 10 million people annually by the year 2050, according to the United Nations, which released this report in May last year. The belief is that drug resistant infections pose an even bigger threat in developing countries. Felix is suggesting we deal with this by virus that attack bacteria without having to rely on antibiotics and medication. These are called Bacteriophages.
Bacteriophages, or viruses that can fight bacterial by infecting them, aren’t new. They were first discovered in 1915 by English researcher Frederick W. Twort and independently by French researcher Félix d'Hérelle in 1917. Eventually, around the 1940s, anitbiotics were discovered which were cheaper and simpler to administer and the bacteriophages were relegated to the background.
Until now. Felix co-founder Robert McBride explains to Techcrunch that the medical technology they are working on allows the virus to be targeted at specific sites on the bacteria or where the bacteria is the host. This is believed to kill off the bad bacteria and can also stall its ability to evolve and spread further. It also means the bacteria cannot become more resistant, since it cannot evolve.
At this time, the clinical tests of this bacteriophages treatment that Felix has developed, are yet to be done.