Researchers use bacteria-eating viruses to prevent medical device infections

Medical devices often penetrate the boundaries of the body, making them vulnerable to bacterial infection. British scientists have enlisted bacteriophages, or viruses that specifically target and kill bacteria, in their effort to reduce medical device-derived infections. Specifically, the researchers used them against Proteus mirabilis, a bacteria that commonly encrusts and blocks urinary catheters. This can lead to kidney infection or even septicemia, which can be deadly. Bacterial infection in an age when the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment is growing rapidly can prove problematic, particularly in a hospital setting that is rife with virulent microorganisms. "Our work provides good initial evidence that bacteriophage can treat infections caused by Proteus mirabilis and prevent catheter blockage," said Dr. Brian Jones, the head of research development at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, in a statement. "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. 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." Release