Phages (bacteriophages) are viruses that particularly wipe out bacteria. In the beginning of 20th century, scientists tested phages as a possible technique for curing bacterial infections. By that time antibiotics surfaced and phages fell out of trend. With the advent of antibiotic-opposing infections, though, scientists have renovated their interest in phage treatment. In restricted cases, users with multidrug-resistant life-threatening bacterial infections have been treated successfully with investigational phage treatment after all other options were exhausted.
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers and their colleagues for the first time have now successfully used phage treatment in mice for a disease that is not believed to be a classic bacterial infection: alcoholic liver disease. The research is posted in Nature.
“We not only connected a particular bacterial toxin to worse clinical results in people suffering from alcoholic liver disease, we discovered a method to break that connection by accurately editing gut microbiota using phages,” claimed Bernd Schnabl, senior author, to the media in an interview.
Almost 75% of people suffering from severe alcoholic hepatitis, the most grave kind of alcohol-associated liver disease, die within 3 Months of diagnosis. The disease is treated most commonly with corticosteroids, but they are not extremely effective. Early transplantation of liver is the only treatment, but is only provided at specific medical hubs to a restricted number of people. In fact, there are only almost 8,000 liver transplants for all purposes each year in the US with roughly 14,000 patients in waiting list.
Alcohol itself can injure liver cells directly. But Bernd and group had earlier found that alcohol is also injurious to the liver for another reason: It reduces natural gut antibiotics, exacerbating alcohol-boosted liver disease and leaving mice more defenseless to bacterial development in the liver.