Reckless overuse of antibiotics has led to several disease-causing bacteria – like Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB developing resistance to medicines.
In the summer of 2016 as Delhi sweltered, Pranav Johri was feeling the chills. The 33-year-old businessman had felt a pulling pain in his groin region a few weeks ago that only grew worse, coupled with a low fever and persistent aches. He was soon diagnosed with Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis along with Chronic Epididymitis an inflammation of the prostate gland and the epididymis, caused by a bacterial infection. He was prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics, and, when it didn’t show visible results, a four-week course of a second antibiotic.
Nothing worked. A second doctor and urine culture later in August, he was put on a different antibiotic regime but with little result. “Every summer, my wife and I would go mountaineering. Now, I couldn’t even move normally without assistance,” he said.
As October rolled around, Johri was running out of options the pelvic pains had worsened, so had the chills and shivers. His doctor suggested the bacterial infection was antibiotic-resistant and his best bet would be to manage symptoms. “It was like a wave hitting me, my doctor admitting that we had run out of options. I started to consult and read up on antibiotic resistance. It is then that I read about phage therapy,” he said.
What Johri had stumbled on was no new frontier in medical science but a 100-year-old system that pivots on naturally occurring viruses, or phages, to attack and destroy bacteria. Phage therapy is certified for human treatment only in a few European countries, primarily Georgia.
On November 14, 2016, he flew to Georgia to admit himself at the George Eliava Institute of Bacteriophage, Microbiology and Virology in Tbilisi. Johri admits he wasn’t completely convinced as most doctors dismissed phage therapy as fringe. “But it was my only shot,” Johri said.