Sunday, May 4, 2008

Astronomy Picture of the Day?

This science nerd gets alerts from google when bacteriophages appear in the news. That's how I found out about the 21 April 2008 NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day. The short article is, for the most part, on the money. It's estimated that there are 10^31 phages on earth. That's more numerous than stars in the universe (~10^21). However, phage therapy is a bit more advanced than they let on. You can read more about phage therapy here.

Credit: Wikipedia


  1. Dawkins once wrote something about how strange it would be if disagreements over physics (or was it astronomy?) showed geographic structure, as religion does. What can we conclude from the concentration of phage therapy in one country? Is the medical establishment in Georgia pushing a poorly developed but profitable method, or are the medical establishments in every other country being bribed by drug companies? Are there any credible review articles you can recommend?

  2. It's an interesting question. From what I understand it is purely historical happenstance. Georgi Eliava, who briefly worked with d'Herelle at the Pasteur Institute, returned to Tbilisi and opened the Eliava Institute which he devoted to phage therapy. d'Herelle in fact was a co-founder and worked there ca 1933-35. Around the same time, the West's fascination with antibiotics eclipsed phage therapy. Supposedly USSR scientists lagged in antibiotics research, but I doubt it. Anyway, phage therapy was kept alive largely because of the work at this institute. Wonder what happened to Georgi Eliava? He picked possibly the worst person in the USSR to fall in love with, the one whom the head of Stalin's secret police, Lavrenti Beria, was also in love with. Eliava was denounced as an enemy of the people and executed in 1937.

    Read more in this article: The Lancet Volume 365, Issue 9478, 25 June 2005-1 July 2005, Pages 2166-2167

  3. To read all you wanted to know about phage therapy get Thomas Haeusler's 2006 book entitled: Viruses vs. Superbugs: A solution to the antibiotics crisis? or the German version Gesund Durch Viren: Ein Ausweg aus der Antibiotika-Krise, 2003 or look on his website

  4. Thanks, I hadn't heard of that book. I am going to try to find it now. The website wasn't valid, unfortunately.