Phage therapy: Canadian doctor uses century-old therapy to save husband from superbug – National

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A British Columbia man is hoping to grow to be the primary particular person in Canada to obtain a century-old experimental remedy often called phage remedy, which makes use of viruses to focus on antibiotic-resistant superbug bacterial infections.

Jeff Summerhayes turned contaminated with a very resilient bacterial pressure on the age of 16.

Wayne Hacheruk / International Information

Jeff Summerhayes, 57, lives on Vancouver Island and was born with cystic fibrosis, which causes his lungs to fill with mucus and creates a breeding floor for bacterial infections.

When he was 16 years previous, Summerhayes turned contaminated with a very resilient bacterial pressure known as Burkholderia cepacia. On the time, docs didn’t anticipate him to outlive previous the age of 20.


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“The an infection has slowly ravaged my lungs over 30 years,” Summerhayes informed International Information. “The one means that they’ve been in a position to deal with the an infection to date is with antibiotic remedy.”

Jeff Summerhayes and his mother, Donna, in hospital. Jeff was born with cystic fibrosis, which makes him prone to bacterial infections.

Jeff Summerhayes and his mom, Donna, in hospital. Jeff was born with cystic fibrosis, which makes him vulnerable to bacterial infections.

Heather Cariou

However after receiving antibiotics frequently for many years, his micro organism tailored and the remedy turned ineffective.

“We have been going by increasingly medicine that the micro organism was turning into proof against in a really quick time frame,” Summerhayes mentioned.

“That meant they have been bombarding me with three or 4 totally different antibiotics at a time, and that was onerous on my kidneys. The extra I’ve to be on antibiotics, the much less possible they’re to work and the extra harm they do to my different organs.”

Jeff Summerhayes prepares his antibiotics following his double lung transplant in Vancouver, B.C.

Jeff Summerhayes prepares his antibiotics following his double lung transplant in Vancouver, B.C.

Wayne Hancheruk, International Information

In September 2018, Summerhayes’ lungs have been on the snapping point, and he was compelled to endure a double lung transplant. His docs have informed him he now has a 50 per cent probability of surviving the subsequent yr.

In response, Summerhayes and his household started researching experimental therapies, they usually got here throughout some literature on phage remedy.

A bacteriophage used to treat a patient with a bacterial superbug infection.

A bacteriophage used to deal with a affected person with a bacterial superbug an infection.

Steffanie Strathdee

Bacteriophages, or phages for brief, are viruses which have naturally developed to assault solely micro organism. They have been found in 1917 by French-Canadian microbiologist Félix d’Hérelle, who discovered the phages might be used to combat bacterial infections in folks. However following the invention of penicillin in 1928, phage remedy was all however forgotten by western nations, together with Canada.

“We’ve now come full circle,” mentioned Dr. Jonathan Dennis, a microbiologist on the College of Alberta and Canada’s solely phage remedy researcher.

“Micro organism have developed to grow to be resistant to those chemical antibiotics, and now we’re shedding the benefit that we noticed with these chemical antibiotics. We’re not maintaining with the issue and we’re heading in direction of a disaster.”

WATCH: How phage remedy saved a Canadian man’s life





Infectious illness specialists have warned that our present overuse of antibiotics may end in 10 million deaths per yr by 2050 on account of antimicrobial resistance, making superbugs a much bigger killer than most cancers and making widespread procedures akin to hip replacements and caesarean sections prohibitively dangerous.

Canadian infectious illness epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee is aware of from private expertise how lethal superbugs have grow to be. Strathdee and her American husband, Tom Patterson, are professors on the College of California San Diego. They have been on a trip to Egypt in 2015 when Patterson started feeling nauseous.

“Tom bought very sick impulsively. We thought it was meals poisoning, however he simply saved throwing up,” Strathdee mentioned.

Medical doctors ultimately found that Patterson was contaminated with a superbug known as Acinetobacter baumannii — a micro organism that was proof against all antibiotics.

Canadian Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson on vacation in Egypt in November 2015.

Canadian Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson on trip in Egypt in November 2015.

Steffanie Strathdee

“I used to be actually shocked as a result of I’m educated as an infectious illness epidemiologist on the College of Toronto and I used to plate this micro organism on my Petri dishes within the 1980s,” Strathdee recalled.

“It appeared like a fairly wimpy micro organism again then. However over the subsequent few many years, it has grow to be a really nasty micro organism. It’s what I think about to be a ‘micro organism kleptomaniac’ — it steals these antibiotic resistance genes from different micro organism.”

Tom Patterson was infected with an antibiotic-resistant superbug during a trip to Egypt in 2015.

Tom Patterson was contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant superbug throughout a visit to Egypt in 2015.

Steffanie Strathdee

Patterson’s situation rapidly worsened, and he fell right into a coma. His docs mentioned he didn’t have lengthy to reside.

“There was nothing that they may do. Little by little, daily, he was slipping away. And he was going to die except one thing drastic occurred,” Strathdee mentioned.

“It was additionally type of the second once I kicked myself into gear and determined that if the docs had given up on him, I didn’t need to.”


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In desperation, Strathdee started researching experimental therapies on-line and got here throughout an article on phage remedy.

“I knew what phages have been as a result of, again within the 1980s, I studied virology on the College of Toronto, and my professor there taught us what bacteriophage have been. It’s simply that I didn’t ever know that they have been used to deal with folks so I bought actually excited once I thought this could be one thing that might be used to avoid wasting Tom,” Strathdee defined.

Strathdee proposed the concept to Patterson’s medical workforce in San Diego, who subsequently acquired particular permission from the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) to try phage remedy underneath the phrases of compassionate use, which is permitted when no different life-saving therapies can be found.

Three days after Patterson was injected with a bacteriophage, he woke from his coma.

Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson, who woke from a coma after receiving phage therapy in 2016.

Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson, who woke from a coma after receiving phage remedy in 2016.

Steffanie Strathdee

“He lifted his head off the pillow and he kissed his daughter’s hand. All people freaked out. It was simply an unbelievable feeling,” Strathdee recalled. “I simply couldn’t consider it. All of us hoped that it was going to work, but it surely labored so rapidly. I imply, right here’s a man who’s hours away, actually, from dying. After which he wakes up.”

Strathdee and her husband have since launched the Middle for Modern Phage Purposes and Therapeutics (IPATH) on the UC San Diego College of Medication, a non-profit that helps others with life-threatening bacterial infections to obtain phage remedy.

“I signify evidence-based hope for folks with these superbug infections. We’ve saved some lives already,” Patterson mentioned.

IPATH has labored with sufferers within the U.S., they usually’re now hoping to interrupt new floor in Canada by asking Well being Canada to permit Summerhayes, the double lung transplant recipient, to obtain phage remedy in British Columbia. They’re at present on the lookout for a bacteriophage virus that matches Summerhayes’ bacterial pressure.


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“It’s the final alternative that I’ve,” Summerhayes mentioned. “There’s nothing else out there. We’re operating out of antibiotics. If I can remedy the micro organism downside and I get by the primary yr, I’ve been informed there’s no motive why I can’t reside one other 10 years of fine, wholesome life.”

In a press release supplied to International Information, a spokesperson for Well being Canada mentioned: “If a doctor desires to make use of phage remedy to deal with antimicrobial-resistant infections in a affected person, a medical trial software would have to be filed to Well being Canada for overview and approval. To this point, Well being Canada has not acquired any medical trial purposes for phage remedy.

“Well being Canada might think about requests for entry to medicine which are unavailable on the market in Canada underneath the Particular Entry Programme (SAP),” which considers whether or not experimental therapies could also be utilized in circumstances the place sufferers have critical or life-threatening situations and when typical therapies have failed or are unavailable.

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Strathdee has revealed a e book about her husband’s ordeal, titled The Excellent Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband From a Lethal Superbug. She hopes her story will assist to kick-start new analysis into the century-old remedy.

“Superbugs are a world disaster. This isn’t an issue that’s going away,” Strathdee mentioned. “We have to step as much as the plate. And Canada is well-poised to try this.”

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