Article ID: CBB842087713

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

unapi

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.

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Authors & Contributors
Sankaran, Neeraja
Vezzosi, Elisabetta
Grunden, Walter E.
Kolchinskii, Eduard I.
Yamazaki, Masakatsu
Kawamura, Yutaka
Journals
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
Publishers
Viella
Syracuse University Press
Duke University Press
MIT Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
W. W. Norton & Co.
Concepts
World War II
Cold War
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Science and war; science and the military
Medicine
Public health
People
Einstein, Albert
Rous, Fancis Peyton
Hérelle, Félix d'
Lwoff, André
Fermi, Enrico
Seaborg, Glenn T.
Places
Soviet Union
United States
Germany
Europe
Japan
England
Times
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
21st century
18th century
Institutions
National Institute of Health (U.S.)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)
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