How UC San Diego researchers are working to fight superbugs

The University of California San Diego launched the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics June 20 to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Five things to know:

1. The center will study bacteriophages, which are viruses that can find and destroy bacteria capable of resisting antibiotics.

2. Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, the university's associate dean of global health sciences, first pushed for using bacteriophages as an effort to save her husband, Tom Patterson, who contracted a superbug infection in 2015 that left him in a coma.

By using phages purified and modified by biotech firm AmpliPhi Biosciences Corp. and the U.S. Navy, Mr. Patterson's medical team brought him out of his coma on March 19, 2016.

3. The FDA has not approved phages for general use. The agency has to grant a separate emergency application for every patient whose physician wishes to use phages to treat a severe infection.

4. The new center at UC San Diego, which will aim to treat complicated urinary tract, medical device, transplant and cystic fibrosis-related lung infections, hopes to change the use of phages for infection treatment by conducting clinical trials.

5. Dr. Strathdee will co-direct the center with infectious disease expert and UC San Diego professor Dr. Robert Schooley, MD, who said trials are required to move phages toward more general use.

"Only through controlled clinical trials will we begin to learn important information like how large a dose you have to give to take care of an infection and how often you have to give it," Dr. Schooley said.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control: 
Why detained migrant children may be at risk for disease outbreaks
Researchers find way to prevent capillary leakage associated with sepsis
Antibiotic stewardship next steps: What to do when the low-hanging fruit is gone

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