Bacteria-eating viruses kill hard-to-stop infections

It takes 10 years and one billion dollars for a company to bring a new antibiotic to market. But bacteria are constantly evolving and can become resistant to those new drugs within a few years, or even just a few months.

One solution may be bacterial killers that change. They are called Phage, and they are giving thousands of people a chance of living life without pain, without drugs, and without deadly bacteria.

Greg Breed barely remembers a time he wasn’t in pain from an anti-drug resistant E-coli infection in his prostate.

“For the last two years of my life, I basically was on IV antibiotics almost year-round,” he tells Ivanhoe.

UCSD infectious disease specialist, Saima Aslam, MBBS, MS explains, “Bacteria definitely are very smart and definitely have multiple ways of overcoming antibiotics that we use to kill them.”

Aslam connected with a team at Baylor College of Medicine who’s working on a highly personalized solution using bacteria-eating viruses to kill these bacteria.

“What we try to do is generate viruses, they’re called phage, that are killers, specific killers of bad bacteria,” says Baylor College of Medicine molecular virologist, Anthony William Maresso, PhD.

Austin Terwilliger, Ph.D. researcher at Baylor College of Medicine adds, “They are not going to infect human cells.”

Researchers at Baylor test each patient’s virus against a library of phage in their lab. If one of these kill the bacteria, then infusions are made and sent back to the patient’s doctor. The entire process can take a few weeks to a year. UCSD has treated 19 patients with phage therapy. Eighty percent are infection-free for the first time in a long time.

“This was their end-of-the-road treatment option, and to have that success rate is really encouraging,” Aslam expresses.

Greg Breed exclaims, “They have labeled me as a success story now.”

He can now do the things he loves with the people he loves pain-free and medication-free.

The CDC estimates that nearly three million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year.

Thirty-five thousand people will die from one. Participating patients in the study qualify under the FDA’s Compassionate Use Provision, which allows early testing of investigational drugs for life-threatening conditions when no other therapy works.