Bacteria-Eating Viruses Kill Hard-to-Stop Infections


SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – It takes 10 years and one billion dollars for a company to bring a new antibiotic to market. But bacteria are constantly evolving and can become resistant to those new drugs within a few years, or even just a few months. One solution may be bacteria-eating viruses that change. They are called Phage, and they are giving thousands of people a chance of living life without pain, without drugs, and without deadly bacteria.

Greg Breed barely remembers a time he wasn’t in pain from an anti-drug resistant E-coli infection in his prostate.

“For the last two years of my life, I basically was on IV antibiotics almost year-round,” he tells Ivanhoe.

UCSD infectious disease specialist, Saima Aslam, MBBS, MS explains, “Bacteria definitely are very smart and definitely have multiple ways of overcoming antibiotics that we use to kill them.”

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Aslam connected with a team at Baylor College of Medicine who’s working on a highly personalized solution using bacteria-eating viruses to kill these bacteria.

“What we try to do is generate viruses, they’re called phage, that are killers, specific killers of bad bacteria,” says Baylor College of Medicine molecular virologist, Anthony William Maresso, PhD.

Austin Terwilliger, PhD, researcher at Baylor College of Medicine adds, “They are not going to infect human cells.”

Researchers at Baylor test each patient’s virus against a library of phage in their lab. If one of these kill the bacteria, then infusions are made and sent back to the patient’s doctor. The entire process can take a few weeks to a year. UCSD has treated 19 patients with phage therapy. Eighty percent are infection-free for the first time in a long time.

“This was their end of the road treatment option, and to have that success rate is really encouraging,” Aslam expresses.

Greg Breed exclaims, “They have labeled me as a success story now.”

He can now do the things he loves with the people he loves pain-free and medication-free.

The CDC estimates that nearly three million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year. Thirty-five thousand people will die from one. Participating patients in the study qualify under the FDA’s Compassionate Use Provision, which allows early testing of investigational drugs for life-threatening conditions when no other therapy works.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5154

BACKGROUND: A bacterial infection occurs when bacteria enter the body, increase in number, and cause a reaction in the body. Bacteria can enter the body through an opening in your skin, such as a cut or a surgical wound, or through your airway and cause infections like bacterial pneumonia. More than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.


DIAGNOSING: To diagnose a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider may take a sample of fluids such as pus or mucus, which can help identify an STI, and send it to a laboratory, send in a swab sample from your throat, ear, or infected area of your skin for evaluation, evaluate a urine sample, which can identify bladder and kidney bacterial infections, or evaluate a stool sample to help determine the bacterial cause of persistent GI upset. Bacterial infections can cause generalized symptoms, which impact the whole body. These include fever, chills, and/or fatigue or exhaustion.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Phage therapy (PT) is also called bacteriophage therapy. It uses viruses to treat bacterial infections. Bacterial viruses are called phages or bacteriophages. They only attack bacteria; phages are harmless to people, animals, and plants. Phage therapy might sound new, but it has been used for 100 years. However, the treatment isn’t well known. More research is needed on bacteriophages. This therapy for disease-causing bacteria may be a useful alternative to antibiotics. Bacteriophages kill bacteria by making them burst or lyse. This happens when the virus binds to the bacteria. A virus infects the bacteria by injecting its genes (DNA or RNA).



Nicole Mlynaryk                      Scott LaFee  

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Saima Aslam, MBBS, MS, Infectious Disease Specialist, Anthony William Maresso, PhD and Austen Terwilliger, PhD

Read the entire Q&A