Engineered phages successfully treat case of drug-resistant Mycobacterium abscessus


Phage therapy using genetically engineered phages has been used to treat a 15-year-old girl with a drug-resistant infection, as outlined in Nature Medicine.

The patient had come to Great Ormond Street Hospital (London, UK) for a double lung transplant due to cystic fibrosis and persistent infections. After the transplant redness was noted around the surgical site, in addition to sign of infection in the liver and nodules on her arms, legs and buttocks.

With antibiotics failing to treat the infection, the London team contacted Graham Hatfull, a Professor at the University of Pittsburgh (PA, USA), regarding phage therapy. Hatfull leads a program termed SEA-PHAGES that allows students to collect phages from the environment, sequencing their genome and identifying bacteriocidal activity. The collection now totals over 15,000 specimens.

“I had a sense that this collection was enormously powerful for addressing all sorts of questions in biology,” Hatfull commented. “But we didn’t think we’d ever get to a point of using these phages therapeutically.”

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