Tags: antibiotic | resistant virus | experiment

Report: Genetically Modified Virus Treats Antibiotic-Resistant Infection

isabelle has a dangerous infection that is being treated with a cocktail of genetically modified viruses

Isabelle Carnell-Holdaway (left), now 17, with her mother Joanne Carnell-Holdaway. (Courtesy of Jo Holdaway)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 May 2019 05:44 PM

For the first time ever, scientists have reportedly used genetically modified viruses to treat a patient fighting an antibiotic-resistant infection.

In the journal Nature Medicine published Wednesday, the remarkable recovery of Isabelle Carnell-Holdaway, 17, of  England, was recounted by the team of University of Pittsburgh researchers who helped save the girl’s life.

The teen — diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 11 months old — began the researchers’ experimental treatment after her own doctors lost all hope they could fight a life-threatening infection after a lung transplant Isabelle had when she was 15. 

She’s not been cured, but has recovered so much that she has resumed a near-normal life, NPR reported.

"I think it's amazing," Carnell-Holdaway told NPR. "It kind of shows that there is completely no limit to what they can come up with really."

Doctors and scientists hope the case will spur more efforts to try the approach on more "superbug" infections and help counter the growing threat posed by drug-resistant infections, NPR reported.

"This is actually a historic moment," Steffanie Strathdee, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, told NPR. 

“This is the first time that a genetically engineered phage has been used to successfully treat a superbug infection in a human being," she said. "It's terribly exciting."

The remarkable feat had its genesis in 2010, when an undergraduate in Durban, South Africa, scraped some muck from the underside of a partially decomposed eggplant, State News reported. The student soon after picked out a never-before-described bacteriophage virus that kills certain mycobacteria — and named it Muddy.

Muddy ultimately wound up in a lab freezer at the University of Pittsburgh, where Graham Hatfull, a professor of biological sciences who specializes in phage research, would pull it and two other phages out of frozen obscurity to help save a then-15-year-old Isabelle, NPR reported.

"It's kind of a scary thing to go in and administer a treatment like this, for which we're completely on new ground. We don't know what to expect," he told NPR. 

Within weeks of the experimental treatment, the teen’s infection began to recede. 

"I'm having driving lessons," the teen told NPR. "I'm making birthday cakes for people. I've been doing some gardening. All sorts of normal stuff."

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For the first time ever, scientists have reportedly used genetically modified viruses to treat a patient fighting an antibiotic-resistant infection.
antibiotic, resistant virus, experiment
Wednesday, 08 May 2019 05:44 PM
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