Web Zap*Germs Archive

May 30, 2004

Bacteriophage Found to Kill Campylobacter in Chickens

At the recent American Society of Microbiology conference, researchers from the UK's Nottingham University presented research results that detailed their discovery and use of bacterial viruses to kill the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium in chickens. In the study, the researchers isolated a number of naturally occurring bacterial viruses (aka bacteriophage) that can infect and kill Campylobacter bacteria from the feces of chickens. They then used these bacteriophage to treat chickens that were infected with Campylobacter. Depending on the specific type and amount of phage used, infecting the chickens with phage yielded a 100- to 100,000-fold reduction in the number of bacteria in the chickens' intestines over a 3-day period.

Before the development of penicillin in the World War II era, bacteriophage -- viruses that infect and kill bacteria -- were thought to be the next big antibacterial weapon. With the enormous success of penicillin and other antibiotics, however, phage research died out -- at least in the U.S. and Western Europe. In the former Soviet Union, however, research continued. One clinic in the former Soviet republic of Georgia -- the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi -- has experienced great success in deploying phage therapy to treat difficult bacterial infections.

The beauty of phage therapy is that bacteria are unlikely to develop resistance to naturally occurring phage. Consequently, phage research is now underway at European and U.S. universities and startup companies, to isolate phage to combat some of the most dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, including staph and E. coli.


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