Stephanie Strathdee, the woman who saved her husband from the virus

Canadian doctor Stephanie Strathdee She has been invited to 12 countries to talk about her research, but it doesn’t matter how often she tells her story to the public. Her voice breaks as she recalls the dire situation that led her to that path.,

When her husband became seriously ill in 2015 after being exposed to a strange bacteria, all the doctors at the prestigious University of California San Diego (UCSD), where Stephanie was a professor, came to the rescue. They predicted there was no way to save his life, it was about Acinetobacter baumanniione of many superbacteria What are they It is resistant to practically all antibiotics created by humans.

This bacteria was classified as a critical pathogen by WHO due to its high mortality rate. “It was the scariest moment of my life”he said choked up in front of the audience of Future Congress 2024. But he did not give up.

The epidemiologist himself investigated and came up with a treatment that was almost useless. it was a therapy bacteriophages, A type of virus created by nature that attacks bacteria. the problem is that There are trillions of these different “parasites” and each one attacks very specific receptors, So find one suitable for that superbug that endangers your family It was quite an exciting experience.

had to find one ,perfect hunter, As for the strange creature that was attacking Tom, and given the lack of options, Stephanie decided to bet on this 0.001% chance. And after hundreds of tests in laboratories, together with a multidisciplinary team from USCD, they achieved it.

Today’s bacteriophage therapy (Phage) is spreading in different parts of the world, and it could be a solution both for treatment and for isolated cases like your husband’s. general antibiotic resistance, this is a problem rapidly latentThe epidemiologist explained in his talk, because the bacteria become stronger and Antibiotics are increasing rapidly less effective to cure diseases,

In fact, a study from the University of Washington estimated that Third most common cause of death in Chile may be linked to antibiotic resistance, after cancer and cardiovascular accidents. Bacteriophage therapy may become one of the common ways to deal with diseases in the future.

Where are bacteriophages found in nature?

Phages are found everywhere in nature, they are very abundant. The thing is that we didn’t realize how abundant they were, because we didn’t have some of the scientific methods that we have now. For example, some of them are hard to sequence, but they are found in soil and water. If phages did not exist, the number of bacteria in the ocean would be enormous. If it weren’t for phages, the bacteria in our intestines would be attacking our bodies. They are like guardians.

A group of tailed bacteriophages infect bacteria.

What are the other uses of bacteriophage?

It has many potential uses, and many researchers and biotechnology companies are studying its potential applications. For example, in medicine, I talked about how phages can be used to cure bacterial infections that do not respond to antibiotics, but they can also be used to prevent infections from occurring. May go. It can also be used to reduce or replace the amount of antibiotics we use in agriculture or livestock, in which, in fact, antibiotics are used (and this is a fundamental reason why Why are we resistant to antibiotics, because by eating animal meat, we indirectly get some of them).

There are also ways to use phages as vehicles to deliver treatments to a specific location in the human body, as they are very easy to manipulate. We know from my husband’s case that you can inject someone with a billion phages every two hours and they will not die from septic shock, because they are something that exists in the body and are not rejected. Therefore, if we can use phages as “nano vehicles,” they can be used to treat tumors. They can also be used in making anti-cancer medicines.

Given that it is in the testing phase, how do you see the possibility of expanding this therapy to other countries such as Chile?

Well, there’s a company in Chile called PhageLab, and they’re using phages to detect multidrug-resistant superbacteria or these superbacteria in livestock. But one of the most important things we need is a phage “library,” because it is not practical when someone is dying from an unknown insect, like my husband, to get a sample in time to save him. It is necessary to go into sewage. their lives.

For example, if we have a freezer or refrigerator that features phages that can be used with certain types of superbugs that cause infections in humans, we can combat them much faster. There should be a Fez library in Chile. Nowadays they are easier to identify, harder to purify, but also much cheaper to sort than before.

But most of all, and my husband was telling me about this at lunch today, we really need the infectious disease physician community to be excited about phage therapy and willing to learn. Our center is a non-profit organization based at the University of California, San Diego, and we have trained doctors around the world on how to administer phage therapy. This is something we would be interested in doing.

How can artificial intelligence help in this therapy?

AI can be used to determine which phages perform best in a phage “cocktail”. During my presentation yesterday I didn’t have time to explain why we use more than one phage to treat someone, but this is the norm: phages that attach to different receptors on the bacteria, because then against It is more difficult to generate resistance in phage. They can also be used to decide which phages and which antibiotics are best suited for treatment, as we do not think phages will ever completely replace antibiotics. In fact, when we treat with phage therapy, we almost always treat with antibiotics.

I learned from my husband’s case and other similar cases that antibiotics and antibiotics can be synergistic. If AI could predict which one is the best match, it would be a huge advance. Now, it can be used in therapy to match the right phage and bacteria.

In retrospect, how do you now view the situation that you experienced with your husband that led you to investigate this therapy?

Well, I think in the Western world Fez is getting a lot more attention than before. And a lot of research is being done on this. There are more clinical trials being conducted than ever before, which is good, because they are a very rigorous way of determining whether they should be more widely available. And people get less serious infections. For example, we hear a lot about people who have chronic urinary tract infections or dermatitis and their lives are not in danger, but they still make people very sad.

So if we do these trials and find that phages are working, then regulatory agencies like the FDA and their counterparts in other countries can decide what to do. So far, we have not seen any safety issues with administering Phage, even intravenously. So this is all good news. Now it is about determining the effectiveness of phages with respect to antibiotics.

Tom Patterson, center, Stephanie’s husband, listening to her speak at the Future Congress. Photo: Future Congress.

My husband was given phage therapy intravenously for a month, and then it reduced the number of bacteria in his body so much that his immune system could fight them on its own. So he was able to cure himself of his bacterial infection in 3 months, and he never needed another phage therapy or had any side effects from the treatment. There have been some side effects from his bacterial disease, as he had seven cases of septic shock before the phase and it also damaged his lungs, heart muscle and his intestine. He has to eat very little and very slowly, this also causes diabetes. And he can’t even feel the soles of his feet, he has neuropathy, so he doesn’t surf anymore.

Chile is the 12th country we have visited since recovery and now we are going to visit Atacama this weekend. So I’m a little nervous, it’s too much. But he says, look, I want to live my life and we’ll enjoy it. So I feel very hopeful and very fortunate that I’ve had this time and I’ve actually seen so many people get cured with phage therapy. We believe this is the reason we are on this planet.

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