NMRC Executive Officer, Capt. Eric Hall (left), is greeted by Dr. Biswajit Biswas (right), research scientist at NMRC, in front of a bacteriophage-based therapy research poster during a session at the 2016 Military Heath System Research Symposium (MHSRS) in Kissimmee, Florida. (Photo by NMRC Public Affairs)
SILVER SPRING, Md. – Researchers from the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) presented a poster in August at the Military Heath System Research Symposium in Kissimmee, Florida, highlighting an alternative treatment for multidrug antibiotic resistant infections using a bacteriophage-based therapy. Dr. Biswajit Biswas, research scientist, presented information on the formulation of a bacteriophage cocktail that could be highly effective for overcoming antimicrobial resistance.
Bacteriophage, commonly called phage, are viruses that kill bacteria. Earlier this year, NMRC responded to the FDA regarding an approved Emergency Use Investigational New Drug request for a phage therapy cocktail for research purposes to support efforts at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Physicians there were treating a critically ill patient.
“Laboratory data generated at NMRC suggested that phage can be used in the treatment of wound infections,” said Lt. Cmdr. Theron Hamilton, Head of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Department. “We provided a bacteriophage cocktail to UCSD for research purposes through a limited purpose cooperative research and development agreement. The treating physicians ultimately administered our cocktail as an FDA-approved, off-use IV infusion to treat the patient’s systemic infection, and reported rapid positive improvements in the patient’s condition. This was an incredible experience for the entire team.”
NMRC’s contribution to this effort draws from many years of progress in laboratory studies developing bacteriophage therapy and diagnostics. Evidence from multiple studies indicates phage can be highly effective in treating various experimental infections in laboratory models. The goal of the research is to focus on possible new treatments for multi-drug resistance infections related to traumatic injuries suffered by warfighters in combat. Traumatic combat injuries are associated with significant tissue damage and are at high risk for complicated infections. Traditionally these wounds are treated with surgical debridement and antibiotics. The increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria has accelerated the need for safe and effective alternative treatment options.
Phage are the most abundant life form on Earth and NMRC researchers have been collecting samples from around the globe for years and storing them in a phage library. The phage library is used to select specific phage targeting multi-drug resistant bacteria.
Phage therapy has the potential to be one of the most promising alternatives to antibiotics. Navy Medicine has a global footprint in place and researchers can collect a rich diversity of phage to make the library a very powerful clinical tool for compounding phage cocktails that can be tailored to an individual’s infection.