Red Army medical treatment may now be used by West
SOURCE: History Today (8-15-07)
A treatment used by Stalin’s Red Army to treat bacterial infections could offer modern patients the solution to hospital super-bug, MRSA. Bacteriophages, viruses which feed on bacteria, have been used in Eastern European medicine for more than 60 years as an alternative to antibiotics. During the 1930s, as cures were sought for bacterial diseases, bacteriophages lost out to antibiotics in western European countries since they were harder to patent and thus offered less potential profit for drug companies than antibiotic treatments. Treating an illness with a bacteriophage is also a more difficult process in its initial stages since a specific correct strain of the virus must be matched to a given bacterial infection, whereas antibiotics can be applied to kill off a number of different strains of bacteria at once. However, the growth of ‘super-bugs’, resistant bacterial strains resulting from the overuse of antibiotics, means that the use of bacteriophages may finally come of age in western Europe.