Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that specifically attack and destroy bacteria. In the early 20th century, researchers experimented with phages as a potential method for treating bacterial infections. But then antibiotics emerged and phages fell out of favor. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, however, researchers have renewed their interest in phage therapy. In limited cases, patients with life-threatening multidrug-resistant bacterial infections have been successfully treated with experimental phage therapy after all other alternatives were exhausted. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and their collaborators have now, for the first time, successfully applied phage therapy in mice for a condition that's not considered a classic bacterial infection: alcoholic liver disease. The study was published in the November 13, 2019 issue of Nature. The article is titled “Bacteriophage Targeting of Gut Bacterium Attenuates Alcoholic Liver Disease.” "We not only linked a specific bacterial toxin to worse clinical outcomes in patients with alcoholic liver disease, we found a way to break that link by precisely editing gut microbiota with phages," said senior author Bernd Schnabl, MD, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Director of the NIH-funded San Diego Digestive Diseases Research Center. Up to 75 percent of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis, the most serious form of alcohol-related liver disease, die within 90 days of diagnosis. The condition is most commonly treated with corticosteroids, but these drugs are not highly effective. Early liver transplantation is the only cure, but is only offered at select medical centers to a limited number of patients.
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