Many types of life-threatening bacteria immune to antibiotics, and because of this, annually around 700,000 people. Of course, researchers from all over the world are trying to develop new drugs, but the process is quite long, while they have another, less proven method of treatment of infections — viruses that eat bacteria. Recently, experimental and extremely risky method helped save a girl’s life, the chance of survival which was less than one percent. How was the treatment?
The girl escaped certain death, became a seventeen year old Isabelle Carnell-Holden. In childhood she suffered from chronic infection of Mycobacterium abscessus from cystic fibrosis — a hereditary disease, accompanied by lesion of the glands of internal secretion and respiratory dysfunctions. She underwent lung transplantation, after which her condition deteriorated: the infection was activated with double force, liver increased in size, and postoperative wound severely inflamed.
A desperate decision
Antibiotic treatment gave no results, so the patient’s mother asked the doctors to conduct an experimental treatment with bacteriophages — viruses that attack bacterial cells. Fortunately, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh rather quickly found in my huge collection of viruses that could deal effectively with dedicated in patient with bacterial strain GD01 M. Abscessus.
The best candidates for use for therapeutic purposes became bacteriophages Muddy, ZoeJ and BPs. Last couple were less effective, but researchers have applied the method of genetic engineering, and increased their therapeutic effect. A mixture of the three viruses was injected into the body of the patient at 32 weeks every 12 hours — during the procedure, Elizabeth was spotted fevers, but other side effects have been identified.
I was under the assumption that our collection of bacteriophages can be extremely powerful for the solution of various questions in biology, but I didn’t think we were going to reach their therapeutic use — shared microbiologist Graham Hatfull.
Six months after the beginning of treatment the patient’s condition has improved markedly, and this can be seen on CT images below. The numeral 1 indicates a soft tissue injury, figure 2 indicates lymph nodes, and figure 3 — cutaneous nodules. The difference between the two images with the semi-annual difference is very noticeable lesions and inflammation greatly reduced. As a result, she started to gain weight, and the bacteria Mycobacterium abscessus ceased to appear in her sputum.
According to the researchers, this is the first ever use of genetic engineering of bacteriophages to treat infectious diseases of man. However, they recognize that the cause of improving the condition of girls could be another of the simultaneously conducted methods of treatment — one clinical success does not prove the absolute efficiency of the method. Anyway, during therapy with the other patients, researchers will have to re-select suitable bacteriophages, because Muddy, ZoeJ and BPs is not able to destroy other bacteria.
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