Experimental phage therapy of burn wound infection: difficult first steps

2014 paper in Int J Burns Trauma

Antibiotic resistance has become a major public health problem and the antibiotics pipeline is running dry. Bacteriophages (phages) may offer an innovative means of infection treatment, which can be combined or alternated with antibiotic therapy and may enhance our abilities to treat bacterial infections successfully. Today, in the Queen Astrid Military Hospital, phage therapy is increasingly considered as part of a salvage therapy for patients in therapeutic dead end, particularly those with multidrug resistant infections. We describe the application of a well-defined and quality controlled phage cocktail, active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, on colonized burn wounds within a modest clinical trial (nine patients, 10 applications), which was approved by a leading Belgian Medical Ethical Committee. No adverse events, clinical abnormalities or changes in laboratory test results that could be related to the application of phages were observed. Unfortunately, this very prudent clinical trial did not allow for an adequate evaluation of the efficacy of the phage cocktail. Nevertheless, this first baby step revealed several pitfalls and lessons for future experimental phage therapy and helped overcome the psychological hurdles that existed to the use of viruses in the treatment of patients in our burn unit.

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Written by M. //