Faced with failing antibiotics, scientists are using killer viruses to fight superbugs

Business Insider | 2/3/2018 | Emily Mullin, MIT Technology Review
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Startups are using killer viruses known as phages to treat uncontrollable bacterial infections.

An increasing amount of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, resulting in thousands of deaths per year.

DNA - Sequencing - Intelligence - Scientists - Phages

Using DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence, scientists are finding phages to use for some of the sickest patients.

Patients in danger of dying from uncontrollable bacterial infections could find new allies: killer viruses known as phages. Armed with advances in DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence, a few startups are turning these natural enemies of bacteria into promising alternatives to antibiotics.

Alternatives - Bacteria - Resistance - Drugs - Today

Alternatives are desperately needed as more and more bacteria evolve resistance to the drugs we use today. Each year in the US, about two million people become infected with resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 of those die from their infections.

Resistance is much less likely to develop with phages, because each type of phage infects a specific type of bacteria. Using them to fight infections is an old idea. But until recently, finding the right type of phage was little more than guesswork. Sometimes a doctor would inject a patient with a phage and it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t.

Result - Phage - Therapy - Patients - Treatment

As a result, phage therapy is now used only for the sickest patients, as a treatment of last resort. But DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence could make finding the right phage much easier, turning the strategy into a more practical treatment option.

"We can sequence a phage quickly and say, this is the exact DNA sequence we want," says Paul Grint, CEO of AmpliPhi Biosciences, a startup that is concocting combinations of phages in advance to treat bacterial infections like Staphylococcus aureus. "Ideally, we want a product that we can take out of the refrigerator and give it to a patient," he says.

Phages - Places - Sewage - Scientists

Phages often live in dirty places, including sewage, so scientists must first...
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