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The Tbilisi Institute, now called the George Eliava Institute of Bacteriophage, Microbiology and Virology (IBMV) has been active since the 1930s in the field of phage therapy, which is used to combat microbial infection (cf. antibiotic-resistant strains).



The Institute was opened in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1923, and was a bacteriology laboratory. Its founder, Prof. George Eliava, was not aware of bacteriophages until 1919-1921. In that years he met Felix d'Herelle during a visit to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. There, Eliava was enthusisatic about the potential of phage in the curing of bacterial disease, and invited d'Herelle to visit his laboratory in Georgia.

D'Herelle visited Tbilisi twice in 1933-34, and agreed to work with Prof. Eliava. It has been suggested that d'Herelle became enamored of the communist idea. In 1934, Stalin invited d'Herelle to the Institute in Tbilisi (NOTE: There is no historical prove about this.; he accepted and worked there for about 18 months - and even dedicated one of his books, "The Bacteriophage and the Phenomenon of Cure," written and published in Tbilisi in 1935, to Stalin.

D'Herelle had planned to take up permanent residence in Tbilisi and had started to build a cottage on the grounds of the Institute (it would later house the KGB's Georgian headquarters).

However, the collaboration between the two scientists was not to be. Around the time d'Herelle was to take up residence, in 1937 George Eliava was executed and denounced as a supposed enemy of the people. D'Herelle fled from Tbilisi and, some believe, never returned. Another account states that he was in Paris at the time of Eliava's execution, and decided not to return. D'Herelle's book was also banned from distribution.

In spite of this development, the Institute did not change its practical specialization, and continued its activity in the field of bacteriophage research. In 1938, the Institute of Bacteriophage Research and the Institute of Microbiology & Epidemiology (founded separately in 1936) merged, and the Institute of Microbiology, Epidemiology and Bacteriophage was formed. It existed until 1951 and was authorized by the People's Commissary of Health of Georgia. After 1951, it came under the auspices of the All-Union Ministry of Health and was renamed The Institute of Vaccine and Sera.

Since its inception, the Institute was composed of a combination of industrial and scientific (research) departments. In 1988 the Institute was rearranged again and emerged as the Scientific Industrial Union "Bacteriophage" (SIU "Bacteriophage"). Around that time, its scientific portion was renamed the George Eliava Research Institute of Bacteriophage.

Based on the original intentions of D'Herelle and Eliava, the Bacteriophage Institute retained its leadership among other institutes of similar profile over the years. Teimuraz Chanishvili was the leader of the scientific part of the Institute for over 30 years, until his death in August 2007.

Dr. Revaz Adamia is a present director of the Eliava Institute.

The institute behind the Iron Curtain

The Institute in Tbilisi became a general Soviet institute for the development and production of bacteriophage drugs. Patients with serious infectious diseases came from all over the Soviet Union to receive treatments there, which were reportedly successful. Bacteriophages became a routine part of treatment in clinics and hospitals. Ointments for the skin, and pills, drops, and rinses consisting of phages were sold and are still sold at pharmacies throughout Eastern Europe at incredibly low prices. These therapies are very effective, completely harmless to humans, and are much cheaper than antibiotics. Further, much of this therapy is apparently available without a doctor's prescription.

As the world is well aware, the Soviet Union fell apart within 2 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In 1991, after the Republic of Georgia declined to join the Russian Federation and civil war broke out there, the Tbilisi facility was essentially ruined. The Eliava Institute's facilities were damaged and decades of research on bacteriophage nearly went down the drain. Thousands of bacteriophage samples identified over the years and catalogued in huge, refrigerated "libraries" suffered irreversible damage due to frequent electrical outages. Apparently, the Russians transferred some of the equipment to their territory and built plants for the production of bacteriophages in other locations. Clearly, they recognized the importance of the research and also that of continued bacteriophage therapy. The situation at the Eliava Institute continued to deteriorate until it was on the verge of closure.

However, in 1997, a report on the Institute was broadcast by the BBC, sparking a flurry of media interest in the West. The headlines drew doctors and scientists to Tbilisi - and also, most importantly, energetic entrepreneurs from around the world who were determined to help save the Institute and its stocks and fully explore the potential of this "new" and highly effective therapy. Georgian scientists whose names were connected in some way to the Institute saw great opportunity, and some of them emigrated to the West to be part of joint projects. Some of the Institute's projects with the rest of the world can be seen on the website of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, the umbrella entity which now includes the Eliava Institute. The URL is


The George Eliava Institute is located at:

3, Gotua Street
380060, Tbilisi

Tel: +995 32 38 16 04 or +995 32 38 10 68 or + 995 37 12 18

See also

External links


  • Nature Publishing Group: Volume 22, No. 1, Jan. 2004, Old Dogma, New Tricks - 21st Century Phage Therapy, by Karl Thiel.
  • Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA: Vol. 93, pp. 3167ā€“3168, April 1996, Smaller infinitum: Therapeutic Bacteriophage Redux, by Joshua Lederberg, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation Scholar at the Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021.
  • The bactericidal action of the waters of the Jamuna and Ganga rivers on Cholera microbes, By M.E Hankin, Government Laboratory, Agra, India. Translated from the original article published in French, Ref. Ann. De lā€™ Inst. Pasteur 10.511 (1896).



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