Using Virus May Be Way to Fight Resistant Bacterial Lung Infections, Study Reports

Joana Fernandes, PhD avatar

by Joana Fernandes, PhD |

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Virus can fight CF bacteria

Using a virus may be a reliable way to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients’ lungs, according to a study.

The approach is called phage therapy. Phage is a shortened version of bacteriophage, a virus that infects bacteria.

The study, “Phage Therapy Is Highly Effective Against Chronic Lung Infections With Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” was published in the journal Thorax.

Chronic lung infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa are a major cause of morbidity, or impaired health, and mortality among CF patients. In some cases, the infections are caused by forms of the bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics. That has created an urgent need for new ways to treat drug-resistant P. aeruginosa infections.

Bacteriophage therapy consists of using viruses as an antibacterial tool. Viruses are able to infect and replicate within bacteria, killing them with no harmful effects and fewer drug-associated side effects.

Researchers used mice to test whether a virus could treat chronic P. aeruginosa lung infections.

Phage therapy cleared P. aeruginosa from the lungs of 70 percent of the mice, and was effective in a CF-like lung environment, the team said.

“Given the increasing problems caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics, there is an urgent need to develop new approaches,” Aras Kadioglu, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. “We have shown that phage therapy has the potential to offer a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of such persistent bacterial infections.”

“Cystic fibrosis patients face the prospect of life-long treatment with antibiotics, which often prove ineffective and can have side effects, especially when used for long periods,” said Craig Winstanley, another study author. “Hence phage therapy could be a particularly valuable addition to the treatment of chronic lung infections in these patients.”

CF is caused by mutations of the CFTR gene that encodes the CFTR protein. When faulty, the protein contributes to the accumulation of mucus in several organs, making it possible for pathogens, such as P. aeruginosa, to grow and infect those organs.

Chronic infections with P. aeruginosa affect as many as 80 percent of CF patients aged 25 to 34, and 60 percent of patients in other age groups.