SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2018

Researchers defeat drug-resistant bacteria with virus

Bacteriophages were used to defeat E. faecalis.
Bacteriophages were used to defeat E. faecalis. | Courtesy of

Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Dental Medicine recently used bacteriophages (bacterial viruses) to defeat drug-resistant bacteria, giving them hope that they can be used to fight post-operative root canal infections. 

Isolating EFDG1 phages from Jerusalem’s sewage treatment facility, the researchers tested their efficiency in eliminating the liquid and the biofilm forms of Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis). Particularly resistant to antibiotics., E. faecalis causes a variety of health problems, including common urinary tract infections, root canal infections, meningitis, bacteremia (dangerous bacteria flowing through the bloodstream) and endocarditis (a fatal heart infection).

E. faecalis groups with sticky bacterial clusters commonly known as biofilm, which makes the bacteria even more difficult to eliminate. These bacteria are commonly found in 20 of 33 percent of post-operative root canal patients. 

The researchers found that the phage successfully killed almost all of the E. faecalis cultures. They were especially excited to note that EFDG1 successfully removed root canal infections in ex vivo and in vitro tissue specimens.

The  overuse of antibiotics has led to more drug-resistant bacteria strains. A recent report issued by the United Kingdom's prime minister said not addressing drug-resistant infections may kill 10 million people each year and will cost $100 trillion by 2050.

"The idea of using phages as anti-bacterial drugs is not new," Dr. Ronen Hazan, a faculty member at the university, said. "Phage therapy was first proposed at the start of the 20th century, but then abandoned for various reasons, including the striking success of chemical antibiotics. Now we stand on the verge of a new era with the limitations of synthetic antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Thus it is the right time to look again into what Mother Nature offers in the battle against bacteria. As this research shows, bacteriophages may prove an effective tool in the development of much-needed new antimicrobial drugs."