The bacteriolytic character of bacteriophages was employed as antibacterial therapy almost from the time of their discovery in 1917. In the United States, phage therapy was sporadic during the 1920s and 1930s but had dwindled into obscurity by the post-WWII period. This demise of phage therapy has traditionally been attributed to the superiority of antibiotics, discovered and first used during the war years, but this explanation is complicated by the fact that phage therapy outside the United States has had a longer and more successful life, especially in the countries of Eastern Europe. This review considers another, probably synergetic factor that was specific to the medical uses of phage in the United States: the geopolitical climate fostered by the Cold War reaction against Soviet science and its associated specter, socialized medicine. This analysis suggests that even such a purely scientific matter involving bacterial viruses cannot escape social forces and political ideologies.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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