Wednesday, April 3, 2019
image from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01631/full
Modular Approach to Select Bacteriophages Targeting Pseudomonas aeruginosa for Their Application to Children Suffering With Cystic Fibrosis
In fact, just driving in my car someone alerted me to a radio program on phages, and I tuned in to listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswvsm
Like most press coverages it was overall super positive and makes you scratch our head why we can't find a way to use phages in fighting infections that antibiotics have trouble with.
In the next week or so I am due to go into hospital to have a 'tune-up', tens of thousands of dollars will be thrown towards me to pump me full of antibiotics and get my lungs cleared a little, but only temporarily. In my analogy of rabbits in my carrot field, this is now akin to paying the army to come in with a battalion to shoot as many as they can. We all know the rabbits will be back within weeks of the battalion leaving. Rediscovering the calicivirus (that virtually stopped the rabbit plague and is still killing domestic rabbits today) is probably a better option.
At a nearby Film Festival in the mountains (Cradle Mountain Film Festival), where I was scouting for documentary makers willing to cover my experience with Phages at Yale University, I was at altitude, about 800m perhaps. I could hardly function. Parked next to the disabled spot at cradle Hotel I was exhausted by the time I got to the cafe inside. Trying to do my nebs and cough up a cup of phlegm too two hours that night as each and every step was torturous. It was too cold for my oxygen concentrator to work properly. I need to kill this pseudomonas infection in my lungs. And I am not the only one suffering. And people with Cystic Fibrosis are also not the only people suffering from such infections.
So anyway, the journalist on the radio explained how she went to the pharmacist and bought phage medicine over the counter. It was designed to kill the 3 most common bacteria circulating in the country that made people sick. Bacteria jump from host to host as you know, so it is quite normal for an infection in a group of people to be exactly the same. Hence an annual update of the phage medicine ensures it stays effective to the particular genotype of the bacteria. That is right, the phage will only kill the exact one genotype of the targeted bacteria. This means not one phage to kill just one bacteria, it has to be really specific. Hence phage therapy often falls under individualised medicine, where a phage is found for each individual case.
How about the annual flu injection. Every year there is a new cocktail of antivenin to combat the worst flues expected to dominate the country. Are millions of dollars and decades of clinical trials required to get them through the medical authorities to be allowed for human use? How do they get away with it? Why can't we do it with phages? Anyone who wants to get a flu shot can buy one, those who are at highest risk are given them for free. Why? Because it is proven to work, keep flu numbers down and prevent epidemics. It is in the government's interest to keep us out of hospital and dying. When I walk in the street, go into a pharmacist or doctor surgery, a hospital, or a plane, I am afraid someone with a nasty bacteria infects me. They wouldn't infect healthy people, but my CF lungs most certainly will, and can cause me to be counting daisies within weeks. And yes, many with Cystic Fibrosis wear masks and keep distance, and all of us avoid crowds. I live in Tasmania where crowds are rare and fresh air is prevalent.
Take a hospital infection where a superbug has gone out of control infecting dozens and killing several patients, it is often just the one bacteria to blame. A bacteriophage can be isolated and given to all patients which will in most cases kill the infection without side effects. Of course, this presumption is just merely a presumption, but that is theoretically how bacteriophages work, they are highly targeted enemies of our enemies, they are our friends!
And is it just one bacteriophage that exists to kill that one particular infection? No, shock horror, it is more like real life biology where say us humans are able to get thousands of viruses that could harm or kill us without affecting our goldfish or hamster, as can rabbits get thousands of viruses without harming their fleas and other parasites, or us humans trying to grow carrots in the same fields these rabbits are dying of the various viruses they could potentially catch. Some viruses are more virulent than others. This means the microbiologists need to isolate a cocktail of effective phages for the bacteria they are targeting. It's not rocket science, but will take a lot of biochemists and lab workers to be employed. The alternative our capitalist society seems to prefer is to find a pharmaceutical solution that spends the same or more on a handful of CEOs and investors instead of creating employment for scientists! Win-win for Phages again.
In the Eliava Institue in Georgia, former Russia, 800 scientists used to work there to isolate and distribute phages for all of the USSR, today still 80 or so remain, to help treat people from their country and desperate visitors who come from overseas to seek treatment after the western system has failed for years.
Thank you for reading this far and if you enjoy these regular updates and are interested to see how I go in my quest for killing my Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection with Phage Therapy please share this page and my fundraiser with other people interested in fighting antibiotic resistance in our world! Donations are not for my travel or treatment, they are intended to cover film and media costs etc to let the world know about Bacteriophages.
Walter van Praag