Saturday, 22 February 2020

Controlled phage therapy can target drug-resistant bacteria

Scientists are seeking alternatives to antibiotics, in a growing effort to head off the tide of incurable bacterial infections. In their work, the group has turned to bacteriophages, a naturally occurring group of viruses that colonize on bacteria.

By taking advantage of the bacteriophages' ability to home in on specific bacteria without damaging the rest of the microbiome, the researchers were able to use a combination of gold nanorods and near-infrared light to destroy even multidrug-resistant bacteria without antibiotics.

A bacteriophage, also known informally as a phage (/feɪdʒ/), is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria and archaea. The term was derived from "bacteria" and the Greek φαγεῖν (phagein), meaning "to devour".

Among the unresolved issues of phage therapy is the incomplete characterization of the phages' biology -- a biology that could allow for unintended consequences due to the phages' own rapid evolution and reproduction, as well as potential toxins the viruses may carry. Another issue is the all-or-nothing aspect of phage therapy.

To surmount these challenges, a science team developed a method of controlled phage therapy using heat. The heat is enough to kill the bacteria, and it also kills the phages, preventing any unwanted further evolutions. The result is a guided missile of targeted phage therapy that also allows for dosage control.


Huan Peng, Raymond E. Borg, Liam P. Dow, Beth L. Pruitt, Irene A. Chen. Controlled phage therapy by photothermal ablation of specific bacterial species using gold nanorods targeted by chimeric phages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 201913234 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1913234117

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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