Aug
04
2018

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Introduction

Phage therapy against superbugs is the latest concept in treating infections. Antibiotic resistance has developed into a huge clinical problem. Every year in the US about 2 million people have infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die as result of it. Certainly, there is a desperate need to find alternative treatment options to treat antibiotic resistant infections. One such option is to use phages, a specific form of viruses to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria. Here is a scientific overview regarding the use of phages for the treatment of antibiotic resistant infections.

History of phages

The observation of phages attacking bacteria goes back more than 100 years. The French Canadian microbiologist, Félix Hubert d’Herelle (1873–1949) described in 1917 what bacteriophages are. He also coined the term of “phage therapy” for the treatment of bacteria with phages. Dr. d’Herelle recognized phages to be virus-like organisms that attacked bacteria and could kill them. When Fleming detected antibiotics, phage research came to a halt. Drug companies invented more and more antibiotics, as it was easier to kill bacteria this way. But now with emerging resistances of bacteria to antibiotics, there is a sudden revival of the 100-year old research on phages. The problem is that there has not been much clinical experience with phage therapy against super bugs until lately. In 1923 Dr. d’Herelle co-founded the Eliava Institute in what is now Tbilisi, Georgia. This institute has the world’s most comprehensive database on phage therapy in man.

Two clinical examples of phage therapy against super bugs

Chronic prostatitis due to superbug

Pranav Johri, a Canadian of Indian descent was suffering of a chronic prostate infection. Physicians had used five different antibiotics, but all to no avail. His doctor told him that he had a chronic prostatitis problem for which there was no cure. But Pranav saw another specialist who determined that Pranav had a prostatitis due to a superbug, which was resistant against all the common antibiotics. Pranav traveled to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia. He paid 6000.00 CAD and had three treatments. After the first treatment his temperature became normal for the first time in months, and his chronic pain subsided. He and his wife were so excited that they felt like celebrating. They did sightseeing, went out to restaurants and enjoyed their travels, all things he was unable to do for months. Pranav had finally received a cure with phage therapy to his chronic prostate infection.

Enteric infection due to superbug

Tom Patterson who had visited Egypt in 2015 together with his wife fell ill on the last night of his holiday. Eventually he went into a hospital in his hometown, San Diego. The doctors told him that he would likely die. He had acquired a multi-antibiotic resistant infection. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. His wife, Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist, remembered having heard about phage therapy during a virology class during her training in Toronto. Tom received two separate phage cocktails that two separate research teams in the US had prepared for his condition. He received the first dosage into his abdomen.

Intravenous phage therapy

The second administration was intravenously. There are only a handful of patients who had received treatment with phage therapy in the US; he is probably the first one who received phage therapy intravenously. A few days later he woke up. He had to relearn basic life skills like swallowing and speaking. But he made a full recovery from a serious disease with multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria. The University of California San Diego School of Medicine had helped Tom to recover from his illness. They announced at the end of June 2018 that they would be opening the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics in San Diego.

Modern phage technology

Basically phages are viruses that specialize in killing bacteria. They exist in nature wherever bacteria grow and help that they do not over-proliferate.  But they can be useful in fighting difficult to treat bacterial infections as well, like pseudomonas ear infections, Clostridium difficile gut infections or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in skin wounds. In the former Soviet Union and in the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, extensive phage research has accumulated valuable data over decades. In the West physician relied on the power of antibiotics, and phages were left on the back-burner of the research lab.

Genetic engineering of phages and toxins produced by phages

Combining phage research and genetic engineering research we are entering a new era of manufacturing biological compounds that can kill bacteria similar to antibiotics. Here is a review article of this new exciting field. I only include this link to show that researchers are now getting a handle on phages. They can be genetically modified to specifically attack one kind of bacterium. The DNA of the phage can be isolated and injected into bacteria. I do not expect you to understand all of what is discussed in this link.

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Phage Therapy Against Superbugs

Conclusion

As a result phages are more and more in use to treat difficult chronic infections where bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. It requires a team of experts who are familiar with phage cocktails. The cocktail is a careful combination of various phages that will fight the antibiotic resistant infection.The composition of it has to be according to the bacteria present in the patient’s bacterial flora. As shown with two clinical examples very sick patients can recover relatively quickly from their chronic infections. After this breakthrough more and more centers for phage therapy will open and this should help reduce the death rate from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Jul
06
2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

When your grandmother grew up there was very little convenience food, maybe ketchup and yes, there was processed cheese and coke. There were also bread and butter.

Now we go through a large grocery store and the center of the whole store is occupied by convenience food, row after row.

What is convenience food? It is pre-cooked or processed food that sits on a shelf waiting to be bought and consumed. You may be able to just eat it the way it is (power bars, fruit yoghurt snacks, ice cream, breakfast cereals etc.) or you just have to microwave it for a minute or two (ready made meals, pizzas). Even, if you make a fresh salad, you top it with a salad dressing that has been processed and may contain chemicals that are not necessarily healthy for you.

This blog is meant to make you think and get educated as a consumer. As a physician I am guided by what is healthy for you, but at the same time food needs to be interesting and taste good and be affordable.

As fat, carbohydrates and protein are the main food groups that we eat, I will deal with each of these categories first followed by vitamins and minerals, which we also need.

Fats and oils

Many convenience foods are full of saturated fatty acids, which contribute to the overall calorie count of the package and are one of the main reasons why we gain weight and deposit fat into our arteries in preparation for a heart attack or stroke down the road. As you may know the worst form of fat is hydrogenated fat, also known as “trans fat”.

It contains free radicals from the hydrogenation process, which damage your cells and interfere with normal body metabolism. Read labels and avoid any foods that have a long shelf life as this is due to hydrogenated fats and chemicals known as food preservatives.

This food group also contains sausages and other processed meat; I wrote a separate blog about this recently.

If you eat cheese, reduce your saturated fat intake by buying cheese with only 18% fat (such as Cantenaar cheese, Jarlsberg light, skim milk mozzarella and goat cheese). Avoid the rich 45% type cheeses. The best oil in your kitchen would be an organic cold pressed olive oil. It figures prominently in Mediterranean cooking.

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

Sugar, starch and other carbohydrates

A large portion of snacks from the mid section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy until you see from the ingredient list on the label that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Often low calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces to go along with it.

Protein in meats, dairy products and sausages

You would think that a healthy cut of meat from the grocery store would be a good source of protein for you. You probably did not think that it could be contaminated with a superbug when you bought it. This is especially true for ground meats like hamburger meat. If you bought a portion of organic meat you can be more certain that you are buying a qualitatively superior product. I discussed this whole issue of superbugs in meat and meat products in this blog recently.

We need to be aware of the agroindustry, the feedlots and what they fed the animals. I only buy organic meat and organic dairy products as my source of protein. I avoid sausages altogether because of the food additives that they contain, which are cancer causing.

The problem with prepared meats like chicken nuggets and others is that they contain breading and food preservatives and they have been deep fried, which makes these items an unhealthy choice.

What are some of the problems with dairy products? Despite the allegations that bovine growth hormone would be harmless to your health, your body thinks otherwise. Your body has hormone receptors that are very specific and bovine growth hormone can block them so your own human growth hormone from the pituitary gland cannot function properly. This is why I would recommend only organic milk products. You may have heard that in many European countries bovine growth hormone is banned for that reason.

Next the fat content of dairy products needs to be monitored: go for low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While we are talking about yoghurt, stay away from fruit yoghurts that have all kinds of sugar and food additives mixed in. Add fruit of your choice and stevia, if you need a sweet taste.

Vitamins and minerals

The more foods are processed, the less natural vitamins and minerals stay behind. Particularly vitamin C and the B complex group are affected, but also magnesium, which is an important co-factor to enzymatic reactions within our cells. Often processed foods contain too much salt with sodium displacing potassium from the cells resulting in a lack of energy and high blood pressure.

Your best prevention is to stick to as little processed food as possible and to eat organic. If you eat enough organic greens and vegetables, there is an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Prepare your own soups as canned products are high in sodium; another unwanted additive is often sodium glutamate (MSG), which comes under many disguised names. It belongs to the group of excitotoxins like aspartame and is not welcomed by your brain cells.

Public Awareness

Lately there has been more of public interest and awareness to the detrimental effects of convenience foods. Alarming reports about the increase in the obesity rates, the rise in diabetes type 2 even in children have been in the media for some time. The publications are not only North American, but also European, as can bee seen in this link.

New legislation is being introduced in many states of the US regarding school snacks and vending machines in schools.

Not all food news is bad. Recently it was reported that fish oil could protect against the effects of junk food. Omega-3-fatty acids contained in fish oil are helping to rebalance the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6-fatty acids in food, which often is disbalanced towards an overabundance of omega-6 fatty aids in processed foods. Rebalancing the omega3/omega6 ratio in food helps to normalize the metabolism of the brain and prevents hardening of arteries.

What you can do to get healthy food

It starts when you buy food. Read labels and look for calories, sugar, fat and sodium content. You may be surprised how many stores carry organic foods now. The price may not be that much more. There is a useful app for your cell phone, Buycott, that you may want to download. This way you can scan items in the store and find out what ingredients are contained in a particular food item and which company produces it.

With meats it is particularly important to buy organic (because of superbugs and also because of the aspect that feed lot animals often receive antibiotics and hormones). Stick to organics also with vegetables and greens (xenoestrogens in non-organic greens that block hormone receptors). Milk products also need to be organic because of the bovine growth hormone facts mentioned above.

When you eat out, things become more difficult unless you find an organic food restaurant. You can always prepare your own salad for lunch with organic greens and a lean protein food, which you keep refrigerated until you are ready to consume it. On weekends a portable picnic in a park can be a great way to relax and socialize, especially in summer.

More information about nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014