Fighting Proteus mirabilis infections with viruses

Posted: 3 March 2016 | Victoria White | No comments yet

Scientists at the University of Brighton have shown that bacteriophage can treat infections caused by Proteus mirabilis and prevent catheter blockage…

Scientists at the University of Brighton have shown viruses that can kill bacteria may be used to combat common infections related to the use of medical devices such as catheters.

This new insight could lead to new methods of preventing infections and could contribute to overcoming problems with antibiotic resistance.

A team led by Dr Brian Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology at the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences, has been studying infections associated with the use of urinary catheters which are used in their millions across the world every year.

The team has focused on a particular species of bacteria called Proteus mirabilis, which is a common cause of these infections and leads to extensive encrustation and blockage of catheters. This, in turn, leads to the onset of serious complications such as kidney infection and septicaemia.

Dr Jones and his team have evaluated the potential for viruses that specifically infect and kill bacteria – called bacteriophage – to prevent these infections.

Dr Jones said: “Our work provides good initial evidence that bacteriophage can treat infections caused by Proteus mirabilis and prevent catheter blockage.

“This could lead to new ways of managing patients fitted with urinary catheters, providing much benefit to a large number of patients, and also contribute to reducing antibiotic use and tackling resistance.”

More research needed

Dr Jones said more research was needed: “We are still at a very early stage in this work, and have a long way to go before we can be sure this will lead to an effective way to control these infections, but bacteriophage have been used extensively in other countries for decades, and the challenge of antibiotic resistance makes it important to look at using these promising alternatives to antibiotics. We think an important issue will be in developing ways to deliver bacteriophage as needed, which is a key aim of our ongoing work.”

Dr Karen Knox, Consultant Microbiologist and Lead Infection Control Doctor with Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and Frontier Pathology, added: “Long term indwelling urinary catheters pose significant healthcare associated infection risk and burden, often in elderly and already immunocompromised patients.

“This research is an exciting opportunity to explore and potentially open up new avenues of infection prevention and management, which provides some optimism in the era of ever increasing antimicrobial resistance.”

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