Microbial Ninjas: Bacteriophages take on antibiotic resistant superbugs

Microbial Ninjas: Bacteriophages take on antibiotic resistant superbugs (9:15)

One of the key science questions of our time is how to beat bacteria in an age where antibiotics are no longer effective. Much like the "peak oil" crisis, the "peak antibiotic" point has likely transpired. As a society, we are now faced with a future where we need to reconsider they ways in which we are using antibiotics and invest in alternatives to this precious and dwindling resource.

The outlook is both good and bad. The bad news is we can't beat them. Bacteria have evolutionary mechanisms that far outstrip our ability to pace them and they are incredibly numerous. The good news is that beating bacteria is not our only option. Bacteriophages are the most numerous entities on the planet and they are the natural parasites of bacteria. I work with graduate and undergraduate students to discover novel bacteriophages that have the potential to kill bacterial pathogens that have become resistant to antibiotics. In the future these tiny entities might be added to western medicine’s arsenal in the fight against antibiotic resistant super bugs. 


PHAGOBURN is the project name of the first European clinical study on phage therapy to treat Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa skin infections in burn patients.

The project is funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development (Health Programme). It has been launched on June 1st, 2013 and will last 27 months.

Under the coordination of the French Ministry of Defence (Army Health Service – Percy Military Hospital) collaborating with Pherecydes Pharma (French SME), PHAGOBURN gathers six other international burn treatment centres – including the Royal Military Academy/Queen Astrid Military Hospital (Belgium) and the Lausanne University Hospital (Switzerland) – as well as a second French SME, Clean Cells.

The PHAGOBURN study aims at evaluating phage therapy (therapeutic use of bacteriophages) to treat skin infections caused by Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in burn patients.

More information can be found online (http://cordis.europa.eu/search/index.cfm?fuseaction=proj.document&PJ_RCN=13907101)
or in the pdf Press Release Kit (290 KB) .

The Therapeutic Phage Bank

One of the major approaches of P.H.A.G.E. in 2013 is the establishment of a Therapeutic Phage Bank under a Memorandum of Understanding between P.H.A.G.E. and the Leibniz Institute DSMZ. P.H.A.G.E. is an initiative with high relevance for the society. The establishment of a Therapeutic Phage Bank within a renowned and securely funded biological resource centre that is experienced in phage biology will strongly support the goals of P.H.A.G.E. insofar as phages that might be or definitely are suitable for application in humans have to be kept safe, secure and authentic for future use. The infrastructural preconditions for running such a phage collection is given at the Leibniz Institute DSMZ. 

Read more: The Therapeutic Phage Bank