Infectious Disease

NIH awards $ 2.5 million for phage therapy research

March 12, 2021

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Fauci does not report any relevant financial information.

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The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases awarded 12 institutions $ 2.5 million in grants to study the use of bacteriophage therapy to combat antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that target and consume bacteria. They are used in some cases as a last resort to treat resistant bacterial infections that have not responded to traditional antibiotics.

Bacteriophage

The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases has awarded $ 2.5 million in grants for bacteriophage therapy.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

“In the past few decades, multidrug-resistant bacteria, especially those that cause potentially fatal diseases such as tuberculosis, have become a serious and growing global public health problem.” NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said in a press release. “With these awards, NIAID is supporting the research needed to determine whether phage therapy can be used in combination with antibiotics or replaced entirely to treat developing antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases.”

Anthony S. Fauci

The NIH said the funding will fill knowledge gaps related to phage, including a study characterizing different types of phage, studies investigating phage control of biofilms, and studies to identify new phages.

Scholarship holders include researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Connecticut, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Queens College, Texas A & M Agrilife Research and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Geneve Foundation, Guild Associates and PhagePro.

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Steffanie Strathdee, PhD)

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

When my husband, Thomas Patterson, died of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in 2016, I suggested phage therapy to save his life. Few clinicians in the western world had heard of it, and it wasn’t on NIH’s radar. The researchers donated phages that saved his life and ushered in a new era of phage therapy, previously only available in parts of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Since Tom’s recovery, dozens of patients in the U.S. have been treated with phage therapy under FDA approval for compassionate use. Several phage therapy programs have been launched across the country and NIAID has funded two clinical trials to evaluate them. NIAID’s announcement that it has funded a dozen new phage therapy research projects is welcome news. Translational research is required to inform phage therapy efficacy studies that address dose, valence, route of administration, and the extent to which genetic engineering can optimize phage lifestyle. It is extremely gratifying to me and my husband that his case helped move the needle so it can be examined more closely. The global superbug crisis has only worsened under COVID-19, and this research is urgently needed.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences

Harold Simon Professor

University of California, San Diego Department of Medicine

Co-Director, Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics

Disclosure: Strathdee reports that he owns shares in Adaptive Phage Therapeutics and is an unpaid advisor to Felix Biosciences.

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