The idea of using viruses to combat bacterial infections has gained widespread recognition due to the significant clinical and veterinary issues caused by antibiotic resistance. Despite this, at the time of this writing, only a limited number of individuals have undergone this treatment, primarily due to various barriers. The concept of phage therapy originated from a virus discovered in the natural environment. Bacteriophages are viruses that naturally prey on bacteria, and phage therapy involves utilizing them to treat bacterial infections. This personalized and targeted approach to treating bacterial infections has numerous benefits compared to traditional antibiotics. In this article, we will look at the advantages of phage therapy, such as its specificity in targeting bacteria, the potential to reduce antibiotic resistance, the long history of safe use (due to extensive testing and strict selection by phage scientists), and the ability to be tailored to the patient’s specific needs. We will also discuss current phage therapy research and development, as well as its potential future as a treatment option for bacterial infections. not to mention some of the success stories.
Advantages of Phage Therapy
Phage therapy has several advantages over traditional antibiotics when it comes to treating bacterial infections. One of the main advantages is that phages are highly specific in their targeting of bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, which can have broad-spectrum activity and target both harmful and beneficial bacteria, phages only target the specific bacteria that they are designed to infect. This means that phages can be used to target specific strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, making them an effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant infections.
Another advantage of phage therapy is that it can help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria, but some bacteria can survive and become resistant to antibiotics. Phages, on the other hand, infect and replicate within bacteria, leading to the destruction of the bacteria and reducing the likelihood of resistance developing (however, phage resistance happen).
Phages also have a long history of safe use, with few reported side effects. Phages are naturally occurring and are found in many environments, including soil and water. They have been used for over a century to treat bacterial infections in humans, animals, and plants, and have been shown to be safe and well-tolerated.
Phage therapy also has the potential to be tailored to the specific needs of the patient. By targeting specific strains of bacteria, phages can be customized to treat specific infections. This allows for a more personalized approach to treatment and can result in more effective outcomes.
Phage products for human therepy
Up to this day, though, phage therapy is still considered experimental in many countries and is not yet widely available as a treatment option. However, research is ongoing, and phage therapy is gaining acceptance as a treatment option for bacterial infections, especially those that are antibiotic-resistant. Recently, I spoke with Jessica Sacher, co-founder of Phage Directory, about their new endeavor (Phage Australia). I asked if they currently have any phage products available for therapy in Australia. Jessica informed us that, while they do not have any approved medicine products at this time, they have a pipeline for producing phages that are used under compassionate use. As of December 29, 2022, these phages have been used successfully in three patients.
Phage therapy products have been approved for use in a number of countries, including Georgia. In Georgia, phage therapy has been used for several years as an alternative treatment for bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics. Phage therapy products in Georgia are produced by a number of different companies and are available through prescription from healthcare providers. In addition to Georgia, phage therapy products have also been approved for use in a number of other countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, and France. These products have been found to be safe and effective for the treatment of a variety of bacterial infections and are an important option for healthcare providers and patients when traditional antibiotics are not effective.
Phage therapy products are not yet approved as drugs in the United States, but some companies are producing them as dietary supplements. These products are made from bacteria-infecting viruses called bacteriophages and are intended to be taken orally. However, the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it does drugs, so there is limited information available about their safety and efficacy
Success stories in phage therapy
Phage therapy, which involves the use of viruses called bacteriophages to target and kill bacterial infections, has been used for over a century and has shown promise as a treatment for a variety of bacterial infections. In recent years, there have been several cases in which phage therapy has helped patients who had been unresponsive to traditional antibiotic treatments.
One such case is that of a 12-year-old girl named Amelia Kinkade, who was suffering from a severe case of multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Antibiotics were ineffective in treating her infection, and her condition continued to deteriorate. As a last resort, her doctors turned to phage therapy and were able to successfully treat her infection using a cocktail of phages specifically targeted against the bacteria.
Another case is that of a man named Tom Patterson, who contracted a serious infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) following surgery. He was given a cocktail of phages targeted against MRSA and his infection cleared within a week. “
Phage therapy has also been used to treat wound infections in soldiers returning from combat. In one study, soldiers with severe, antibiotic-resistant wound infections were treated with a cocktail of phages and saw a significant improvement in their condition.
As mentioned earlier, phage therapy is still considered experimental in many countries and is not yet widely available as a treatment option. However, these cases and other studies have shown that phage therapy can be a powerful tool in the fight against antibiotic-resistant infections. As resistance to antibiotics continues to be a growing problem, phage therapy has the potential to become an important part of the arsenal of treatments available to fight bacterial infections.
It’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the safety and efficacy of phage therapy. While phage therapy is thought to be a promising approach for treating some bacterial infections, it’s important to remember that it’s not a panacea and should be used in conjunction with other treatment options as well as a stand-alone treatment.
It’s also important to note that the treatment protocols, the type and number of phages used, the duration of treatment, and the combinations of phages and antibiotics are still under investigation, and the results may vary from case to case. May be this is what bring a sense of personalised therapy, since every case should be treated as unique.
In conclusion, phage therapy is a promising alternative to traditional antibiotics for treating bacterial infections. It offers a targeted approach that can be tailored to the specific needs of the patient, which can lead to more effective outcomes. Additionally, it can help reduce the development of antibiotic resistance, has a long history of safe use, and has the potential to be used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
Here are some references that you can use to explore more about Phage therapy:
- Kutter, E., & Sulakvelidze, A. (2010). Bacteriophages: biology and applications. CRC press.
- Abedon, S. T. (2011). Bacteriophage Ecology and Evolution: Current Perspectives. In Bacteriophages (pp. 3-34). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
- Debarbieux, L., & Prudent, E. (2019). Phage therapy: a century of research and development. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 83(3), e00031-18.
- Kropinski, A. M., & Loessner, M. J. (2018). Bacteriophage therapy: past, present, and future. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 124(5), 1179-1196.
- Dominguez, M., & Kutter, E. (2018). Phage therapy: an overview of the current state of research and development