NMRC and WRAIR develop personalised phage cocktails to treat antibiotic-resistant infection

10 August 2016 (Last Updated August 10th, 2016 18:30)

A team from US Naval Medical Research Centre (NMRC) and Maryland’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has been successful in using bacteriophage therapy to fight an antibiotic-resistant infection in a laboratory model.

A team from US Naval Medical Research Centre (NMRC) and Maryland’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) has been successful in using bacteriophage therapy to fight an antibiotic-resistant infection in a laboratory model.

Bacteriophages attack bacteria by invading the bacterial cells, replicating in them, and destroying them when they rupture and release more phages into the body.

Phages multiply as they kill the disease-causing bacteria, thereby making the phage treatment stronger at the infection site, where it is needed the most. Additionally, phages do not affect the bacteria that are not being targeted.

Acinetobacter baumannii is considered to be one of the most difficult antimicrobial-resistant, gram-negative infections to treat.

These infections are often difficult to treat because of multidrug antibiotic resistance in the bacteria present in the wound.

Overseas laboratories of Navy Medicine and NMRC worked jointly to collect bacteriophages from environmental sources worldwide.

Referred to as a phage library, a collection of phages can be used to make personalised phage cocktails by selecting multiple individual phages from the phage library in order to develop phage mixes that are tailored to meet the requirements of each patient.

NMRC also worked in collaboration with WRAIR's wound infections department in order to examine the phage cocktails in wound infection models, along with demonstrating that customised phage cocktails can be used to treat infections.

"In this study we showed that a phage cocktail can be designed and used to target an infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a wound infection experimental model."

NMRC infectious diseases directorate deputy director Michael Stockelman said: “Bacteriophages, commonly known as phages, are viruses found in the environment, and are known for their activity against bacteria, this is why they have therapeutic potential, and may be able to treat bacterial infections even when antibiotics fail.

“In this study we showed that a phage cocktail can be designed and used to target an infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a wound infection experimental model.”

Phage therapy can enable physicians to treat and manage wound infections in combat casualties who would otherwise need repeated surgeries or other serious measures to control the infections.

It would help enhance the quality of life for wounded warriors and allow them to return to duty.


Image: Overseas laboratories of Navy Medicine and NMRC worked jointly to collect bacteriophages from environmental sources across the world. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.