Doctors successfully treated a 30-year-old bomb survivor’s superbug-infected wound using bacteriophage therapy.
Bacteriophages are viruses that survive by killing bacteria. With the rise in drug-resistant bacteria, doctors are now looking into bacteriophage therapy. However, they have not yet been implemented in humans. Recently, doctors in Belgium used bacteriophage to treat a superbug-infected wound. They outlined their method in the journal Nature Communications.
In 2016, a 30-year-old woman got injured in a suicide bombing at Brussels Airport. The explosion caused extensive damage to her left leg. Moreover, the heavy bleeding caused her to develop hemorrhagic shock which then led to a heart attack. Doctors at the Erasme Hospital had to conduct multiple procedures including removal of part of her pelvis before her condition stabilized. However, four days later, the surgical wound on her left leg developed a bacterial infection, leading to septic shock. Doctors administered various antibiotics, but to no avail. The wound had tested positive for Klebsiella pneumoniae.
Unfortunately, the extensive antibiotic therapy caused further complications. Doctors had to eventually remove her stomach and part of the spleen due to widespread necrosis. In July 2016, doctors applied a skin autograft on her left thigh wound. However, the skin graft soon became infected with purulent discharge. Eventually, they had to put a stop to antibiotic therapy. With no other treatment in sight, the team turned to bacteriophage therapy.
Fighting Drug Resistance
Doctors then approached the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi where the bacteria-killing virus had been under investigation for years. The team of researchers isolated the virus from a sample of sewage water. Next, they put the phage and the patient’s bacteria strain in a lab dish. After several rounds, the researchers picked out the most effective phages.
Doctors administered a solution containing the bacteriophages directly to the infected wound. Moreover, she also received a course of antibiotics along with phage therapy. Three months later, the patient’s health drastically improved. The infected wound stop discharging pus and she regained muscle function in the left thigh. So much so that three years later, she even began to walk again.
Doctors then tested the wound and bones for K. pneumoniae, but found no growth of the bacteria. Thus, providing evidence of bacteriophage therapy’s ability to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections.
Eskenazi, A., Lood, C., Wubbolts, J. et al. Combination of pre-adapted bacteriophage therapy and antibiotics for treatment of fracture-related infection due to pandrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. Nat Commun 13, 302 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27656-z