In this interview from the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show in May 2017, we looked at this amazing story of an individual with a multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii infection and the use of an experimental therapy involving bacteriophages — viruses that target and consume specific strains of bacteria.

Case study lead author and the primary physician of the patient, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, Robert Schooley,MD  joined me to share the details of the remarkable story.

Bacteriophages are ubiquitous viruses, found wherever bacteria exist. It’s estimated there are more than 1031 bacteriophages on the planet. That’s ten million trillion trillion, more than every other organism on Earth, including bacteria, combined. Each is evolved to infect a specific bacterial host in order to replicate — without affecting other cells in an organism.

The idea of using them therapeutically is not new. Described a century ago, phage therapy was popular in the 1920s and 1930s to treat multiple types of infections and conditions, but results were inconsistent and lacked scientific validation. The emergence of antibiotics in the 1940s pushed phage therapy aside, except in parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where it remained a topic of active research.

Acinetobacter spp./CDC
Acinetobacter spp./CDC

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