Researchers combine viruses with antibiotics to fight severe illness

Several strains of bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, making them very difficult to treat. One bacteria that's highly damaging to human lungs and is often resistant to antibiotics is Mycobacterium abscessus. Researchers have found a new potential treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria using bacteriophages.According to the researchers, there is a unique bacteriophage to destroy every species of bacteria. Scientists are currently testing new treatment regimes that utilize a bacteriophage combined with antibiotics currently used to treat infections commonly resistant to antibiotics. In past research, the team identified one bacteriophage out of 10,000 called Muddy known to kill bacteria efficiently in a petri dish.

That bacteriophage was identified as a candidate for treating infections in humans. The team set out to test the potential effectiveness of their new treatment modality in humans by using zebrafish that carry a genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis in humans. Zebrafish mimic how the human immune system responds to bacterial infections.

The team used an antibiotic-resistant form of Mycobacterium abscessus obtained from a cystic fibrosis patient to infect the zebrafish and test the new treatment. After infecting the fish, the team monitored them for 12 days and found they developed serious infections with abscesses and died in significant numbers, with only 20 percent surviving. The team then tested how the infected fish recovered when injected with Muddy.

The team found the fish had less severe infections when treated with Muddy over five days and significantly improved survival chances at 40 percent. The treated fish also had fewer abscesses during severe infection. The team then paired Muddy with an antibiotic, and the survival rate climbed to 70 percent with far fewer abscesses. More work is needed, including clinical trials to determine if the treatment is effective in humans.