A multidisciplinary team from the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) and the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has achieved a significant milestone in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
They successfully used bacteriophages, which are natural viruses that specifically target bacteria, to treat a patient with a chronic bacterial lung infection caused by a multidrug-resistant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This groundbreaking achievement, the first of its kind, was made possible through a personalized and multidisciplinary approach and published in Nature Communications.
Phage therapy involves using bacteriophages in combination with antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, particularly those resistant to traditional antibiotics. Bacteriophages target specific bacterial strains without infecting human cells. While this approach shows promise, more research is needed to develop effective, safe, and approved treatments and to understand potential side effects and the emergence of phage-resistant strains.
In this particular case, the 41 year old patient had been hospitalized for six months, receiving continuous intravenous antibiotic therapy with no improvement. As a last-resort experimental treatment, the patient received phage therapy on a compassionate basis. This resulted in a remarkable improvement in the patient’s condition, allowing them to leave the hospital, regain independence, and return to work.
The success of the treatment relied on a highly individualized approach.
The team isolated the patient’s bacteria from respiratory secretions and determined its genetic profile and resistance patterns. After an extensive search, a phage specific to the patient’s bacteria was identified at Yale University in the United States.
The phages were administered via aerosol while the patient continued intravenous antibiotics. The treatment proved to be efficacious without any adverse effects. Monitoring of the patient’s secretions confirmed that phage replication was limited to the targeted bacteria, with no emergence of more resistant or dangerous strains.
It’s important to note that phage therapy is used as a complement to antibiotic therapy, not as a replacement. The research team emphasizes the need for new strategies to combat antibiotic resistance and acknowledges the urgency of addressing this global health emergency.
Antibiotic resistance is a significant concern worldwide, causing millions of deaths annually. Bacteria have the ability to evolve rapidly, adapting to their environment and evading antibiotics.
Prolonged or repeated exposure to antibiotics leads to the selection of resistant bacterial strains. Phage therapy offers a promising approach to combat this threat, and this successful case of individualized therapy provides valuable insights for further research and development in this field.
The collaboration between the Geneva team and the American group, who provided the phages free of charge, played a crucial role in saving the patient’s life.