Link: Predatory bacteria can wipe out superbugs, study says (bbc.co.uk)
Publish date: 24 Nov 2016
Synopsis: A study out of the Medical Research Centre CMBI and Nottingham University (paper) has found that inoculation of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorans into zebrafish infected with Shigella flexneri allowed the fish to clear the infection without the use of antibiotics. B. bacteriovorans is a parasitic bacterium that reproduces inside host bacterial cells before lysing the host cell and releasing the daughter cells similar to viral lytic cycle. The authors propose that the mechanism is that the lysed Shigella cell wall pieces attract the attention of the infected organism’s immune system to recruit phagocytes and clear the infection. They suggest that B. bacteriovorans may be useful to treat multidrug-resistant infections in humans as it has not yet been reported to cause disease in humans.
Connections: In addition to the lytic viral life cycle, we recently discussed how the innate immune system detects and responds to potential pathogens. We have also discussed antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, and the use of phage therapy to combat it.
Critical thinking: The use of parasitic bacteria to cure an infection is reminiscent of phage therapy to destroy multidrug-resistant bacteria. It sounds absurd, but this seems to me the most effective way to move into the post-antibiotic era: intentional “infections” to stave off worse infections.
Question: Does this sound like a promising therapy or an absurd act of desperation?