Bacteriophage therapy: a ray of hope in the war against antimicrobial-resistant bacteria

Squires, Richard, and Johnstone, Thurid (2017) Bacteriophage therapy: a ray of hope in the war against antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. In: Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists Science Week. From: Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists Science Week 2018, 6-8 July 2017, Surfers Paradise, QLD, Australia.

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[Extract] Emerging and worsening antimicrobial resistance represents an enormous threat to public health, one that is exacerbated by an almost dry antibiotic pipeline. The threat has recently been recognised by the World Health Organisation and the Australian Government. The costs of this worsening crisis are high and growing. In the United States alone, recent estimates indicate that about $20 billion per year is lost in direct costs associated with antimicrobial resistant infections and more than $35 billion per year in indirect, consequent loss of productivity. More than 2 million people per year in USA acquire an infection in hospital, many of them antimicrobial resistant, and there are 99,000 consequent deaths per year. Abundant, potential coping strategies for the worsening antimicrobial resistance crisis have been proposed. Among these, bacteriophage therapy has received relatively little, but increasing, attention.

Bacteriophages (phages for short) are viruses that can infect and kill bacteria, including antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Bacteriophages are ubiquitous, highly diverse, astronomically numerous and most are exquisitely host strain-specific. They can infect only their target bacteria, often only a small subset of a particular host bacterial species. It is likely that a very large majority of all bacterial species have their own bacteriophages. It has been estimated that phage particles outnumber bacterial particles in a mammalian body by approximately 10:1. Given that bacterial cells outnumber mammalian cells approximately 10:1, there may be 100 phage particles per mammalian cell in a healthy animal’s body.

Bacteriophages have been used extensively in development of the field of molecular biology. Just some of the discoveries made through study of phages include: DNA is genetic material; nucleic acid codons are arranged in triplets; messenger RNA is needed for protein synthesis; and restriction endonucleases (which arose during the course of evolution to cleave infecting bacteriophage DNA) can be used as workhorses by researchers and technologists in recombinant DNA work.

The diversity of phages is almost as impressive as their massive abundance. In one study,5 a single visit to a sewage treatment plant in a small city, and collection of a small volume of effluent fluid, was sufficient to discover 40 distinct bacteriophages capable of killing canine and feline uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) strains. The mean number of UPEC strains killed by an individual bacteriophage was 21/53 (40%; range 17-72%). Only 3/53 studied UPEC strains could not be killed by any of the phages that were collected during a single collection visit. The 10 “best” phages could each, individually, kill more than 50% of the 53 UPEC strains. Used in combination, the 10 phages would be expected to kill 92%.

Item ID: 50027
Item Type: Conference Item (Non-Refereed Research Paper)
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2017 01:34
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0707 Veterinary Sciences > 070706 Veterinary Medicine @ 100%
SEO Codes: 86 MANUFACTURING > 8609 Veterinary Pharmaceutical Products > 860903 Veterinary Pharmaceutical Treatments (e.g. Antibiotics) @ 100%
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