Would bacteriophages kill resistant bacteria?

Michael Benedik benedik at uh.edu
Fri Mar 22 10:52:18 EST 1996

In article <199603221126.MAA26426 at aix5.kbar.dtu.dk>
klasteos at student.dtu.dk ("Steen OEstergaard ", c917243) writes:

> Dear reader,
> Behind the retorical question in my 'Subject' is the idea of using virulent
> bacteriophages for killing antibiotic resistant bacteria. A well chosen virus
> should be able to pass through a mammal digestion system and infect the
> resistant bacterium when it gets in contact with it.
> I would like comments to this idea, if you have any.
> Sincerely,
> Steen Oestergaard
> The Technical University of Denmark

The idea of using phage as an antimicrobial agent has been around since
nearly the turn of the century. The problem is that resitance to phage
tends to arise quite easily. Usually just a simple knockout mutation in
the phage receptor. So phage resistant things would be expect to arise

Second problem is that most phage are pretty highly strain specific,
many phage of  E. coli K12 for example won't grow well in E. coli C or
B strains (some do, some don't). Also you have restriction problem. Not
all  E. coli strains have same restriction system, and the same is
certainly going to be true for lots of other bacteria. So in order for
this to really work well you would need to purify the resistant
bacteria and find appropriate phage to propagate on it (and you would
probably need multiple phages, not just one, to circumvent the phage
resistance problem). I think the whole procedure would end up taking
longer than the course of the infection.

Michael Benedik
Department of Biochemical Sciences
University of Houston
benedik at uh.edu

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