Bacteriophages – The Deadliest Being on the Planet

Our time with antibiotics is running out. As I mentioned on Facebook a few weeks back, I recently recovered from a multi-drug resistant infection on my leg (cellulitis) that failed all oral antibiotics and even multiple rounds of IV antibiotics. Ultimately, I was treated successfully with two different “last resort” IV antibiotics, but the infection stole a year of my life and made a profound impact on my life.

Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that specifically target and kill bacteria. Phages are natural antibiotics – nature’s original bacteria slayer. Just like bacteria, phages are ubiquitous in our environment and were once considered a promising medical treatment.

Unfortunately, bacteriophage therapy (or phage therapy) fell out of favor with the medical community with the advent of modern antibiotics like penicillin. However, with 10 million people estimated to die from drug-resistant “superbug” infections by 2050, phages are being studied again by researchers here in the United States. Phage therapy has been used by Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since their discovery in the 1930s.

According to the Eliava Phage Therapy Center, phage therapy is the use of “good” viruses (bacterial viruses) to treat antibiotic resistant or chronic bacterial infections. The bacterial virus acts directly and exclusively on the target bacteria to destroy it through a process called “lysis.”

My reason for sharing this information and the video below is to create awareness about phages and their potential as an alternative to antibiotics.

Am I eligible for phage therapy?

Phage therapy is not currently a licensed treatment in the United States. However, patients with serious multi-drug resistant or device-related bacterial infections that are not responding to antibiotics may be eligible for phage therapy through a special request from the Food and Drug Administration’s EIND procedure. If you meet specific criteria and can travel to the UC San Diego medical center, their medical team can make this request to the FDA for you. If you are receiving care elsewhere, they can provide your doctor with advice about how to make this request. Learn more.

In good health,
Dana 🙂

Additional Resources:

UC San Diego Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH)

Eliava Phage Therapy Center in Tbilisi, Georgia

Center for Phage Therapy at Texas A&M

Ampliphi Biosciences Corporation

Adaptive Phage Therapeutics

Bacteriophages — The Deadliest Being on Planet Earth

The YouTube channel “Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell” explains how bacteriophages infect and destroy bacteria in this colorful animated video:

The Virus That Kills Drug-Resistant Superbugs

References:

Wittebole X, De Roock S, Opal SM. A historical overview of bacteriophage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial pathogens. Virulence. 2013;5(1):226-35.

About Dana McDonald

Dana is a registered and licensed dietitian (RD, LD) in Houston, Texas with more than ten years of professional experience in the Texas Medical Center – the largest medical center in the world. In addition to licensure as a RD, Dana sought out certification in nutrition support –- a sophisticated and specialized practice –- and was awarded licensure as a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) for the certification period 2010 – 2015.