- Bacteriophages can be used to fight bacterial pneumonia, according to an Israeli study
Injecting patients with ‘friendly viruses’ can kill deadly bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Microscopic viruses, called bacteriophages or phages, hunt down and destroy bacteria.
Experts believe they could help combat the growing global crisis of antibiotic resistance, where common treatments don’t work, making routine operations like hip replacements life-threatening.
The problem is predicted to cause ten million deaths a year by 2050.
Until now, however, researchers have struggled to prove the efficacy of phages as a medical treatment because they are difficult to obtain and complicated to administer.
Injecting patients with ‘friendly viruses’ called bacteriophages (pictured) can kill deadly bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Professor Ran Nir-Paz (left), a microbiologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (right), where the study was conducted, said: “This offers hope for patients with persistent infections and highlights the potential of phage therapy as a valuable alternative to conventional antibiotics’
Viruses, 40 times smaller than a red blood cell, are found in the human body and in the natural world. But only specific types, which have evolved to find bacteria, can be used in studies.
Now, an Israeli study has found that a phage strain is 85 percent effective in fighting a drug-resistant strain of bacterial pneumonia that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem administered this phage to 16 pneumonia patients who had not responded to antibiotics.
All the patients were infected with a superbug called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is regularly found in NHS hospitals. It’s a common killer of patients with cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes the lungs to fill with sticky mucus. Cystic fibrosis patients are vulnerable to lung infections.
The Israeli researchers treated the infected patients, who did not have cystic fibrosis, with the phage therapy for about two weeks. They found that 13 patients responded to treatment and were successfully cured.
Professor Ran Nir-Paz, a microbiologist at the university, said: “This offers hope for patients with persistent infections and highlights the potential of phage therapy as a valuable alternative to conventional antibiotics.”