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Combating superbug resistance with phage therapy

20:00 EDT 21 Aug 2017 | Australian Life Scientist

Researchers have shown that bacteriophage therapy can be used successfully to treat systemic, multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. Their work has been published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapeutics.

Bacteriophages (phages) are specialist viruses that only infect and kill bacteria. The most abundant and diverse microbe found in the body, phages control and manipulate bacterial populations, prevent infection and disease, and have important roles in regulating the microbiome. And with antibiotics no longer reliable enough to solely halt the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, according to study co-author Dr Jeremy Barr from Monash University, phages are now being investigated as a possible alternative.

Dr Barr joined a research team led by Dr Robert Schooley, from the University of California San Diego, who were attempting to cure a 68-year-old diabetic who was suffering from necrotising pancreatitis complicated by infection with a life-threatening, multidrug-resistant strain of Acinetobacter baumannii. Despite multiple courses of antibiotic and efforts at percutaneous drainage of a pancreatic pseudocyst over a four-month period, the patient’s health continued to deteriorate.

“In the absence of effective antibiotics, two laboratories identified nine different bacteriophages with lytic activity for an A. baumannii isolate from the patient,” the researchers wrote. “Administration of these bacteriophages intravenously and percutaneously into the abscess cavities was associated with reversal of the patient’s downward clinical trajectory, clearance of the A. baumannii infection, and a return to health.”

The study marks the first time bacteriophage therapy has been used in the USA to treat a patient who had an antibiotic-resistant blood stream infection. According to Dr Barr, it is likely that this infection would have killed the patient had the researchers not intervened.

The news comes five months after UK scientists revealed that phage therapy could offer a safe and effective alternative to antibiotics in the treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) lung infections, which are similarly becoming difficult to treat due to the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

Original Article: Combating superbug resistance with phage therapy

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