The largest case series of patients who underwent bacteriophage treatment for antibiotic-resistant illnesses was undertaken by researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh.
The researchers deployed bacteria-eating viruses to treat 20 antibiotic-resistant lung illnesses. The individuals experienced no unfavorable side effects, and more than half of them had excellent clinical findings, according to the promising results they shared.
Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are a type of bacteria that can cause lung infections on occasion. People with cystic fibrosis or other chronic diseases that damage or destroy the bronchi in the lungs are more likely to contract NTM. However, treating NTM infections is difficult due to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Viruses that devour bacteria
Bacteriophages are viruses that have evolved to target and eliminate specific bacterial species or strains. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become more common since their discovery in the early twentieth century, and more research has been conducted to determine their medical potential.
The application of phage treatment is limited since each phage species targets and destroys only one bacterial species, and the current arsenal of therapeutically effective phages is very small. As a result, phage treatment applications are restricted to experimental medicines in cases where all other viable options have failed.
Twenty people with complicated, antibiotic-resistant mycobacterial illnesses participated in the current trial. Cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited and progressive disease that causes significant damage to the lungs and other organs, was present in all of the patients.
The researchers investigated 200 patients with symptoms of lung illness for bacterial strains that are helpless against phages and found 55.
For an average of six months, the 20 trial participants got phages intravenously, by nebulizer aerosolization, or by combining both approaches. Nonetheless, depending on their clinical or microbiological response, some individuals received shorter or longer treatment.
There is no negative impact.
The final results showed that 11 of the 20 subjects improved their symptoms or reduced the number of bacteria, whereas five patients had unclear results and four had no reaction. In contrast, none of the patients experienced any unfavorable side effects as a result of phage therapy.
“Given the complexity and great variation of these patients and their individual conditions, it is not possible to draw any broad conclusions,” said Constance Benson, MD, professor of medicine and global public health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “However, phage treatment of mycobacterial infections shows promise and should be explored further, especially for treating patients with few or no other good options.”
“In phages, evolution has evolved a powerful bacterial killer, one with immense potential in the global fight against antibiotic resistance.” This paper gives a glimpse of what could and should be. It all starts with NTM infections, but the number of antibiotic-resistant bacterial species is expanding. This is another vital step in a war that will most likely never end,” says co-author Robert Schooley, MD, professor of medicine and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.