Could we use viruses that only affect bacteria to act as antibiotics?

The more bacteria, the more times the virus divides, so the stronger it gets. Is this practical?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Look up Phage Therapy, that's basically what they're doing. In fact, it's used in many cases where antibiotic resistance is high. My college lab was actually researching the use of Phage Therapy with E. coli infections. $\endgroup$
    – SolarLunix
    Jul 12, 2015 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is practical. Assuming you have or create a virus that attacks the bacteria you want to destroy, the nature of the virus should wipe out the bacteria. The problems that could arise, as with any genetic manipulation, are the potential for an out of control mutant. $\endgroup$
    – Cynic Wild
    Jul 12, 2015 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ You may already be eating cold cuts that are treated using this method. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2015 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Could we use viruses that only affect bacteria to act as antibiotics?

Yes. The specific class you're referring to is called a "bacteriophage".

There's quite a bit of research going on surrounding phage therapy as a stand-in or replacement for traditional antibiotics. Here's a Nature Biotechnology article from 2004 that discusses your very topic.

It is practical, carries some risks (mutations being a known and accepted risk), and I wouldn't be surprised to see phages in practice now or sometime soon.


Yes you could.

It used to be a big deal before antibiotics were discovered, and continued for a bit in the Soviet Union.

However, due to the success of antibiotics, it fell out of grace. Due to the lower level of applied research in the Soviet Union (not research itself, although equipment might have been often outdated a bit and the Soviets did isolate themselves quite a bit, but a great deal of research originally discovered behind the Iron Curtain was actually commercialized in the US, such as contact lenses; many Soviet research projects are actually getting rediscovered, such as the great experiment about the domestication of foxes), it never became the thing, and after the fall of the SU, it was nearly forgotten.

However, now it is becoming trendy again. There are several reasons:

  • resistance against antibiotics have grown out of proportions
  • it is quite trendy to use "natural predators" against pests


  • $\begingroup$ In fact, you could say that_ there's a phage for that_. They take water from a river, for example and see which phages feed and reproduce on the germs you are targeting, and cultivate them, benefitting from artificially induced natural selection. $\endgroup$
    – Arc
    Jul 14, 2015 at 10:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .