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Bacteria-Eating Viruses Fight Hospital ‘Superbugs’
Scientists at the University of Leicester in the U.K. have isolated bacteria-eating viruses — known as phages — to specifically target the highly infectious hospital “superbug” Clostridium difficile.
The key advantage of using phages over antibiotics lies in their specificity, the researchers say. A phage will infect and kill only a specific strain or species of bacteria. This is particularly important when treating conditions such as C. difficile infections, where a natural balance of gut bacteria reduces the chances of relapse.
After attaching to bacterial cells, phages inject their DNA into the bacterium, which then replicates many times over, ultimately causing the bacterial cell to burst open. The phages released from the dead bacterium can then infect other host cells.
The C. difficile phages have been licensed by a U.S. biopharmaceutical company, AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation, which is funding their further development in collaboration with the University of Leicester. The goal is to have a phage mixture ready to go into phase I and II clinical trials. This will involve optimizing phage preparations for maximum efficacy against C. difficile infections from around the world and establishing production, storage, and delivery systems for the phage mixture.
Source: University of Leicester; October 17, 2013.