Article ID: CBB842087713

An Alternative Cure: The Adoption and Survival of Bacteriophage Therapy in the USSR, 1922–1955 (2018)


Felix D’Herelle coined the term bacteriophage in 1917 to characterize a hypothetical viral agent responsible for the mysterious phenomenon of rapid bacterial death. While the viral nature of the “phage” was only widely accepted in the 1940s, attempts to use the phenomenon in treating infections started early. After raising hopes in the interwar years, by 1945 phage therapy had been abandoned almost entirely in the West, until the recent revival of interest in response to the crisis of antibiotic resistance. The use of phage therapy, however, persisted within Soviet medicine, especially in Georgia. This article explains the adoption and survival of phage therapy in the USSR. By focusing on the Tbilisi Institute of Microbiology, Epidemiology and Bacteriophage (now the Eliava Institute), I argue that bacteriophage research appealed to Soviet scientists because it offered an ecological model for understanding bacterial infection. In the 1930s, phage therapy grew firmly imbedded within the infrastructure of Soviet microbiological institutes. During the Second World War, bacteriophage preparations gained practical recognition from physicians and military authorities. At the dawn of the Cold War, the growing scientific isolation of Soviet science protected phage therapy from the contemporary western critiques, and the ecological program of research into bacteriophages continued in Georgia.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Sankaran, Neeraja; (2014)
When Viruses Were Not in Style: Parallels in the Histories of Chicken Sarcoma Viruses and Bacteriophages (/isis/citation/CBB001421657/) unapi

Article Doel, Ronald E.; Friedman, Robert Marc; Lajus, Julia; Sörline, Sverker; Wråkberg, Urban; (2014)
Strategic Arctic Science: National Interests in Building Natural Knowledge---Interwar Era through the Cold War (/isis/citation/CBB001450344/) unapi

Book Elisabetta Bini; Elisabetta Vezzosi; (2020)
Scienziati e guerra fredda: Tra collaborazione e diritti umani (/isis/citation/CBB957549150/) unapi

Book Anne-Emanuelle Birn; Raúl Necochea López; (2020)
Peripheral Nerve: Health and Medicine in Cold War Latin America (/isis/citation/CBB246542052/) unapi

Book Taylor, Steven J.; (2009)
Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors (/isis/citation/CBB001231795/) unapi

Article Harald Hagemann; Vadim Kufenko; Danila Raskov; (2016)
Game Theory Modeling for the Cold War on Both Sides of the Iron Curtain (/isis/citation/CBB014379650/) unapi

Book H. R. Everett; (2015)
Unmanned Systems of World Wars I and II (/isis/citation/CBB265113538/) unapi

Article Slater, Leo B.; (2006)
Chemists and National Emergency: NIH's Unit of Chemotherapy during World War II (/isis/citation/CBB000741588/) unapi

Article Krementsov, Nikolai; (2008)
Hormones and the Bolsheviks: From Organotherapy to Experimental Endocrinology, 1918--1929 (/isis/citation/CBB000850413/) unapi

Chapter Frances L. Bernstein; (2014)
Rehabilitation Staged: How Soviet Doctors "Cured" Disability in the Second World War (/isis/citation/CBB758001169/) unapi

Article Grunden, Walter E.; Kawamura, Yutaka; Kolchinsky, Eduard; Maier, Helmut; Yamazaki, Masakatsu; (2005)
Laying the Foundation for Wartime Research: A Comparative Overview of Science Mobilization in National Socialist Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union (/isis/citation/CBB000610600/) unapi

Book Neeraja Sankaran; (2021)
A Tale of Two Viruses: Parallels in the Research Trajectories of Tumor and Bacterial Viruses (/isis/citation/CBB280830487/) unapi

Article Neuenschwander, Dwight E.; (2010)
Bright Ideas: From Concept to Hardware in the First Lasers (/isis/citation/CBB001320778/) unapi

Book Steve Olson; (2020)
The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age (/isis/citation/CBB409460611/) unapi

Article Hayes, Nick; Doyle, Barry M.; (2013)
Eggs, Rags and Whist Drives: Popular Munificence and the Development of Provincial Medical Voluntarism between the Wars (/isis/citation/CBB001202086/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Sankaran, Neeraja
Vezzosi, Elisabetta
Grunden, Walter E.
Kolchinskii, Eduard I.
Yamazaki, Masakatsu
Kawamura, Yutaka
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of Medical Biography
Historical Research: The Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research
History of Physics Newsletter
Syracuse University Press
Duke University Press
MIT Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
W. W. Norton & Co.
World War II
Cold War
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Science and war; science and the military
Public health
Einstein, Albert
Rous, Fancis Peyton
Hérelle, Félix d'
Lwoff, André
Fermi, Enrico
Seaborg, Glenn T.
Soviet Union
United States
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
21st century
18th century
National Institute of Health (U.S.)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment