Dysentery bacteria meet their match in phages

Dysentery bacteria meet their match in phages

Despite the modern age, diseases like dysentery (dih-suhn-teh-ree) continue to wreak havoc even outside of games like Oregon Trail. The Shigella [shuh-geh-luh] bacteria behind dystenery is among an infamous group of superbugs whose antibiotic resistance is on the rise.

After looking for alternative methods to combat the bacteria researchers from Yale University discovered a more … organic solution. Enter the bacteriophage (bak·tee·ree·ow·fayj).

The phage is a “natural enemy” of the bacteria, proving lethal even against the mutant bacteria that have grown resistant to previously effective medications and antibiotics. This has made addressing this dysentery-causing bacteria a priority for the World Health Organization.

Now, researchers hope phages may be one step closer to addressing one of the leading causes of preventable death across the world.

But how does it work?

Essentially, researchers looked for a phage that could bind to the outer membrane of the pathogen when it takes up residence in the intestine. Ideally, the process would weaken the protein that makes the dystenery-causing bacteria spread so easily.

Exposed to the phage, nicknamed A1-1, the mutant bacteria were unable to spread at an intercellular level.

Although phage therapy is promising, it may take years of development before solutions like this hero-phage are readily available.

For now, the study’s authors view this as yet another avenue for funding research toward the preventable disease, exploring phages as a means to increase clean water and act as a useful alternative to antibiotics when necessary.

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