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Doctors Are Now Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria With Viruses Collected From Ponds

By Collin Gossel

Doctors at Yale had a big problem. After operating on a 76-year-old man's heart, his chest became infected by bacteria. While this is an unfortunate post-op complication, it's usually remedied fairly easily with antibiotics. However, because many strains of viruses have adapted and become more and more resistant to these medicines, they found one particular bacteria, P. aeruginosa, would not leave the patient's system. With no other solutions, doctors turned to a local pond.

It turns out there's a certain type of virus, known as bacteriophages, or phages for short, that target bacteria like P. aeruginosa. Doctors have known about these viruses for over a century, but with easier, more reliable medicines like antibiotics at their disposal, physicians never saw a need to use them. Now, with so many strains of bacteria developing resistances to traditional treatments, that may be changing. At Yale, the doctors collected thousands of phages and injected them into the patient to kill his infection. On Thursday, March 8, they announced the treatment was a success and published their findings in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.