The transformation of precision medicine in infectious disease

Phage image courtesy of Locus Biosciences

Before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, another more selective antibacterial agent rose to popularity in the early 1900s: bacteriophage.

In 1917, microbiologist Felix d’Herelle was tasked with identifying the cause of a dysentery outbreak impacting French troops. From his research, he noticed that Shigella bacteria was the primary culprit of this affliction. He then discovered an invisible microorganism that targeted and eliminated the dysentery bacillus, or rod-shaped bacteria, which he eventually named ‘bacteriophage’ (also known by the shorthand ‘phage’) for its supposed bacteria-eating capabilities. D’Herelle would later apply this knowledge to successfully treat children suffering from severe dysentery at the Hospital des Enfants Malades in Paris and create cures for other pathogens like cholera and typhoid. Encouraged by d’Herelle’s contributions and si…

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