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Discovery of virus that 'eats bacteria' could spell end for hospital superbug

Washington, Oct 17 : Scientists have isolated viruses that eat bacteria- called phages- in order to specifically target the highly infectious hospital superbug Clostridium difficile (C. diff).


An exciting new collaboration between the University of Leicester, the University of Glasgow and AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation could lead to the use of bacteriophages for treating the superbug Clostridium difficile infections.

Dr Martha Clokie, from the University of Leicester's Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation has been investigating an alternative approach to antibiotics, which utilizes naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages, meaning 'eaters of bacteria'.

"One alternative to antibiotics is bacteriophages, known as phages, which unlike antibiotics, are specific in what they kill and will generally only infect one particular species, or even strain, of bacteria - referred to as the 'host'. Following attachment to their hosts, they inject their DNA into the bacterium, which then replicates many times over, ultimately causing the bacterial cell to burst open. The phages released from the dead bacterium can then infect other host cells," Clokie said.

Dr. Clokie and her team have achieved the remarkable feat of isolating and characterising the largest known set of distinct C. diff phages that infect clinically relevant strains of C. diff. Of these, a specific mixture of phages have been proved, through extensive laboratory testing, to be effective against 90 percent of the most clinically relevant C. diff strains currently seen in the U.K.

The researchers said that the key advantage of using phages over antibiotics lies in their specificity. A phage will infect and kill only a specific strain or species of bacteria. This is particularly important when treating conditions like C. diff infections, where maintenance of the natural balance of gut bacteria greatly reduces the chance of relapse.

--ANI (Posted on 17-10-2013)

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