Nearly a century ago, biologists discovered viruses that prey upon bacteria. When penicillin and other antibiotics emerged a few decades later, however, physicians largely abandoned their efforts to use these bacteriophages, or phages, to thwart infectious diseases.
As more bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, there's renewed interest in phages (SN: 6/3/00, p. 358: Viruses that slay bacteria draw new interest). Scientists now report that these viruses can prevent mice from dying after being infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium.
"This is the first published study of phages working against multidrug-resistant bacterial strains," says study coauthor Richard Carlton of Exponential Biotherapies in Port Washington, N.Y.
While phages are a popular therapy among physicians in the former Soviet Union, most U.S. investigators have remained skeptical. Few scientifically rigorous studies support phages' effectiveness. Also, side effe