London: Scientists are harnessing viruses to beat extremely resistant bacterial infections, which are fast becoming the bane of public health.
Bacteriophages are viruses that can infect bacteria and multiply within them and destroy them. Soon after their initial discovery in 1915, these viruses were investigated as antibacterial agents.
"Each bacteriophage is highly specific to a certain type of bacteria and needs the right bacterial host cell in order to multiply," said David Harper, chief scientific officer at AmpliPhi Bioscience in Bedfordshire, Britain.
"The more bacterial targets there are, the quicker they grow by killing the host cells. Therefore it seems very likely that infections harbouring high numbers of bacteria will benefit most from bacteriophage therapy - for example chronically infected ears, lungs and wounds," Harper was quoted as saying in a university statement.
"For these types of infection, only a tiny dose of the virus is needed - as small as one thousandth of a millionth of a gram. This can usually be administered directly to the site of infection in a spray, drops or a cream. The major advantage to bacteriophages is that they don't infect human cells so seem likely to be very safe to use," Harper said.
"The need for new approaches to counter such high resistance is both urgent and vital. New approaches will save lives," stressed Harper. Clinical trials for bacteriophage therapy are now underway.
These findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin.