Two Ways of Killing Bacteria

Adrian Gallo and Lisa Hildebrand

Science strives to be apolitical, but that was not possible for bacteriophage research during the Cold War era. Bacteriophages are viruses that attack very specific bacteria; antibiotics also attack bacteria but they are not targeted and can kill both the good and bad bacteria. The Cold War saw the initial phases of Soviets researching bacteriophages while the Americans and their allies levied heavy investments into all things antibiotics. During World War II, antibiotics were widely used and bacterial resistance was becoming more apparent. Because the US and its allies focused on antibiotics, they failed to recognize this natural antibacterial resistance, something that could be ameliorated by bacteriophages. Miriam Lipton is a PhD Candidate in the History of Science program examining the history of this era, as well as the actual scientific papers on bacteriophages and questions why the West has still not embraced this potential solution to bacterial resistance. We had a wide ranging discussion on the 1920-1960’s era history, the science available at the time, and Miriam’s travels to Russia and her personal experience with antibiotics.

Hosted by Adrian Gallo and Lisa Hildebrand

Guest: Miriam Lipton

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