Viruses may have been under a lot of pressure lately, but it’s important to remember that there are some types that can help us out. Bacteriophages (or just phages) are viruses that prey on bacteria. And now scientists have used them to treat Golden Staph infections in diabetic foot ulcers.
Bacteria have been our enemies for a long time, but since the invention of antibiotics, we may have been a bit slacker. Now, these beings are rapidly developing resistance to our best drugs. And if this continues, even the most basic infections can once again become life-threatening.
New antibiotics are always in development, but brand new strategies will also be needed to gain advantage over the long term. And phage therapy may be one of them.
Among the most abundant life forms on the planet, phages are small viruses that infect and reproduce bacteria. They have proved promising in combating bacterial infections, taking inhalable forms of treatments for pneumonia, packaging food-borne insect-killing ingredients, and light drinks to relieve food poisoning symptoms.
If these wounds are left untreated, they can result in amputation and even death.
For the new study, researchers from Flinders University in Australia used phages to target bacteria that could infect diabetic foot ulcers. These wounds can affect a large number of people with diabetes and, if infected and left untreated, can result in amputation and even death. The bacteria in the crosshair here is an alarmingly common strain of Staphylococcus aureus and is resistant to multiple drugs. And it earns him the nickname Golden Staph. The researchers mixed a drink of three phages that attacked this bacterium, then applied it as a topical solution to infected foot ulcers in mice. And it worked.
The phages effectively reduced the bacterial load and significantly improved wound healing in multidrug-resistant S aureus infection, ”said Garedew Kifelow, co-author of the study.The team tested the phages against vancomycin, which is still the most widely used antibiotic for this type of infection. However, bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to it.
No other side effects were noted. But many more tests will be required before this type of treatment can help people. Phage therapy can take other forms besides topical treatments.
Co-author of the study, Peter Speck,
“The next step of our research is to tie the phages to a wrap and do a proper antibacterial dressing and take specific action against the Golden Staph,” he said.
“There is technology used to make such a dressing. Along with a huge advantage, the fact that bound phages remain valid for a year, even when stored at room temperature, makes this approach ideal for use in hospitals and clinics, even in rural and remote locations.