Phages as an aid for antibiotics

21 de November de 2019

Antibiotics are medications that destroy or inactivate bacteria. These drugs are very useful against infections, but the misuse we have made of them in recent decades has caused them to lose their ability to destroy pathogenic bacteria. This is because bacteria have begun to become resistant to many antibiotics at once.

Modern medicine rests on a mattress of antibiotics. If antibiotics do not work, then many medical techniques cannot be performed and the number of deaths due to infections caused by “superbugs” would grow exponentially.

Bacteriophages or “phages” are viruses that parasitize bacteria. They have a very large potential because they can be used against bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

These phages can be used to fight superficial infections, although scientists are trying to make them application systemically as well. If they achieve this, the phages could be a good help for a combination therapy with antibiotics, which would have much better results.

IDIVAL Institute researchers have collaborated with scientists from 5 other national hospitals and with a research group from the University of Ghent in Belgium to study one of these phages. Specifically, they have modified a virus that parasites the Acinetobacter baumannii Superbacterium to study its infection cycle. The team of Dr. Jose Ramos Vivas, of the IDIVAL Cellular Microbiology laboratory, has used the IDIVAL advanced microscopy service to take photographs and videos of the phage infection process.

This phage has been genetically modified to attack the bacteria faster and better, a technique that could be used in the future to optimize the infection process of these viruses and make them more effective. This work also suggests again that phages or some of their enzymes are an alternative or a supplement to antibiotic therapy, which in many cases is no longer working.

Ref. Combined Use of the Ab105-2OΔCI Lytic Mutant Phage and Different Antibiotics in Clinical Isolates of Multi-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Microorganisms, 7 (11) Nov 2019. DOI: 10.3390 / microorganisms7110556

The photograph shows an Acinetobacter bacteria being attacked by phages (red). 

The scale bar indicates one micron in length.