Feeds

Dissolving the plastic bag problem

The Phage Factor

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

In 1919 d'Herelle isolated "phages", agents which were fatal to bacteria, and used them successfully to treat typhus in chickens, and dysentry in people. In 1939 electron microscopy confirmed them to be viruses.

Phage therapies began to be developed, but fell from favour in the West after the commercialization of antibiotics in the 1940s. But they are still used extensively in the countries of the former USSR and in eastern Europe.

d'Herelle had been invited in 1936 to co-found the Tbilisi Institute, Georgia (now the Georg Eliava Institute), and though he was associated with it only briefly it subsequently became the main world research and development centre for phage therapies. These have been applied to treating a large number of -itises (inflamations) and skin conditions, including chronic ones, and in post-operative care.

Phages have their attractions compared to antibiotics. The success rates are claimed to be comparable. As anti-microbial weapons, they are precision bombers, in comparison to antibiotics which tend to nuke everything. They have few if any side effects, and need only small doses to work. R&D is crucially not capital or IT intensive - the Tbilisi Institute would send for samples of river water to be hauled up in jars. With increasing antibiotic resistance stemming from their widespread use now beginning to cause problems, phage therapy is seen by proponents as an option.

Yet here, in drawing a parallel with Daniel Burd's ambition to see his discovery in large-scale use, the story of phage therapy gives pause for thought. Despite access now to decades of research, in the West funding for phage research continues to be scant. Potential investors have to square up to the gorilla that is intellectual and property rights in the legal/patents ring.

In addition regulators such as the FDA maintain that each and every phage of a therapeutic combination must separately pass scrutiny. But they clearly recognize that prescribing physicans have resorted to combination antibiotics at their discretion, and that administering a herbal remedy, regardless of efficacy, necessarily entails taking a cocktail of pharmacologically active ingredients. (Not to mention GM foods).

We note Daniel is an accomplished pianist with an interest in jazz improvisation, and hope that the comparison with Felix d'Herelle does not dissuade him from pursuing a scientific career. But if science's loss were to become music's gain then in 10 years time it may become clear that a different analogy should have been drawn here, one perhaps with Keith Jarrett.

So why haven't we heard of Daniel Burd?

Science and the consensus

The breakthrough first aired in the May 22, 2008 edition of the Ontario Record (audited circulation 6 months to March 31, 2006 of 73,852). It never made the BBC, which instead on June 1 chose to lead with the ban on thin plastic bags in China, a story it had covered in early January, when the People's Republic announced its intentions. A search of the online presence of the UK's national dailies for Daniel Burd also draws blanks.

Perhaps it is because Burd is not a tenured professor, and is not supported by a long list of citations and a vociferous "consensus". Indeed, he does not even have a graduate degree. He is only 16. On the other hand he has the imprimatur of science. One suspects the BBC of 2008 of being unable to pass up opportunity to broadcast to its home audience the message that it is too dilatory over saving the planet. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.