Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Viruses to Treat Bacterial Diseases

“By using a virus that only attacks bacteria, called a phage – and some phages only attack specific types of bacteria – we can treat infections by targeting the exact strain of bacteria causing the disease”, says Ana Toribio from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, UK. “This is much more targeted than conventional antibiotic therapy”.

The scientists used a close relative of Escherichia coli, the bacterium that commonly causes food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections in humans, called Citrobacter rodentium, which has exactly the same gastrointestinal effects in mice. They were able to treat the infected mice with a cocktail of phages obtained from the River Cam that target C. rodentium. At present they are optimizing the selection of the viruses by DNA analysis to utilise phage with different profiles.

“Using phages rather than traditional broad-spectrum antibiotics, which essentially try to kill all bacteria they come across, is much better because they do not upset the normal microbial balance in the body”, says Dr Derek Pickard from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “We all need good bacteria to help us fight off infections, to digest our food and provide us with essential nutrients, and conventional antibiotics can kill these too, while they are fighting the disease-causing bacteria”

“The more we can develop the treatment and understand the obstacles encountered in using this method to treat gut infections, the more likely we are to maximise its chance of success in the long term”, says Ana Toribio. “We have found that using a variety of phages to treat one disease has many benefits over just using one phage type to attack a dangerous strain of bacteria, overcoming any potential resistance to the phage from bacterial mutations”.
This is an interesting idea to use viruses rather than antibiotics to kill bacteria. I like it because it doesn't harm our better halves. Alsothe viruses ought to be able to evolve right along with the bacteria so that there won't be any more "super bugs".



Spokesthingy said...

The only thing I ask is that this not be called "new" technology. Phage therapy was first used and discovered in about 1920 by the French Canadian microbiologist Felix d'Herelle and Thomas Haeusler wrote a book entitled Viruses vs Superbugs, a solution to the antibiotics crisis (2006) - you can go to his website at - he has links to most labs working in the area and remember that in Poland and Georgia phage therapy is used to treat patients probably every day!

Fat Knowledge said...


Interesting info, thanks.

As for "new", I just took the title of the article from, and I believe the new is referring to the virus itself not the technology.

Anonymous said...

This method won't work for long as your immune system treats the "new" virus as non-self. After a few (2-3) exposures to the "new" virus, your immune system will clear the virus faster than the virus can kill the bacteria. A "new" virus gets "old" fast.

Fat Knowledge said...


Interesting. Thanks for the info.

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