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Viruses found in pond fight antibiotic resistant bacteria

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    Cheryl Santa Maria
    Digital Reporter

    Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 16:57 - Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern in the medical community, with approximately 2 million people are infected by 'superbugs' in the U.S. each year, leading to 23,000 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control.

    Researchers are looking into various ways to combat this problem.

    One of them, while still in its experimental phase, is yielding some success.

    According to a new paper published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, Yale doctors successfully treated a man infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria using a cocktail of hundreds of thousands of viruses harvested from Dodge Pond in Connecticut.

    The 76-year-old patient contracted P. aeruginosa, one of the many bacterial strains that has become resistant to traditional drugs, in his heart following an operation.

    The treatment employed is called "bacteriophage", or phages. This type of treatment has been in practice for more than a century, but it took a back seat to treating bacterial infections after the discovery of penicillin and modern antibiotics.

    One limitation is that phages target specific bacteria. Modern antibiotics are more broad spectrum, allowing doctors to treat a disease without knowing what bacteria is present.

    In order for a phage therapy to work, researchers will have to devise ways to quickly identify the exact strain that's infecting a patient.

    While the phages used in the study were found in Connecticut, doctors say they can be found all over the world.

    Clinical studies haven't been approved. Yale doctors had to seek permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to administer the phages to the patient, who is also a doctor and agreed to the treatment.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, over-prescription and improper use of antibiotics are the main causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    "Simply using antibiotics creates resistance," the CDC says on its website.

    "These drugs should only be used to manage infections."

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