How to respond when someone asks you for phage therapy

Issue 121 | April 9, 2021
10 min read
Capsid and Tail

How to respond to a phage request! Photo by National Cancer Institute

Are you getting phage therapy requests from the public, and wondering how to respond? We’ve put together a guide + resources you can use (short version: send them our way)!

Bonus: we’ve included resources for physicians too, including how you can use our Phage Alert service to source phages for patients.

What’s New

David Sáez Moreno (PhagoMed) and colleagues published a new paper on naturally-bred ‘ε2-phages’. They used the Appelman’s protocol to train S. aureus phages to massively broaden host range and increase virulence. Surprisingly, they showed that plaquing efficacy doesn’t correlate with phage ability to control bacterial growth in suspension, so the ‘phagogram’ may not actually be the appropriate (sole) predictor of clinical phage efficacy. They also found that S. aureus wild type phages (especially Podoviridae) may be too weak/unreliable for therapy, but that using the Appelman’s method is straightforward to generate non-GMO phages that work better, without needing to know much about phage genes ahead of time.

Phage TherapyPhage breedingResearch paper

Łukasz Richter (Polish Academy of Sciences) and colleagues published a new paper in Scientific Reports looking at phage adsorption to polypropylene labware and the effects this could have on phage research reproducibility.

ReproducibilityResearch paper

Marion Bichet (Monash University) and colleagues published a new paper in IScience showing that phage uptake by mammalian cell layers represents a potential sink that may impact phage therapy. Check out Jeremy Barr’s Tweet thread on the paper!.

Research paper

Abbas Soleimani-Delfan (University of Isfahan) and colleagues published a new paper in Journal of Virological Methods showing a rapid new method for phage genomic DNA extraction.

Phage methodsResearch paper

Sean Carim (UC Berkeley) and colleagues published a new paper in The ISME Journal on their systematic discovery of pseudomonad genetic factors involved in sensitivity to tailocins (‘headless phages’!). Read also this SciTechDaily article that dives into what this paper could mean.

Research paperTailocins

Latest Jobs

SponsorPost Doc
Cytophage Technologies (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) is currently seeking a full-time Postdoc / Bacteriophage Synthetic biologist to work in their Research and Development department for a 2-year term with the possibility of extension. This position will report to Senior Research Scientists. Specific project work will include research in the development of alternative cloning / expression hosts for both episomal and chromosomal integration plasmids. Apply by April 30!
Post Doc
Karen Weynberg at the University of Queensland is hiring a 2-year postdoc to work on phage! See also her Tweet about it.

Community Board

Anyone can post a message to the phage community — and it could be anything from collaboration requests, post-doc searches, sequencing help — just ask!

We are excited to announce that we are holding a forum on Phage Therapy in the United Kingdom on the 22nd of April, 2pm-6pm BST. The event will be focussed on planning the pathway to phage therapy in UK, starting with testing phage therapy for bacterial UTIs resistant to antibiotics, and developing the next steps for regulations and clinical trials.

Key speakers include Dr. David Jenkins from the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Prof. Krystyna Dąbrowska from the Polish Academy of Sciences, and Dr. Susan Lehman from AmpliPhi Biosciences, discussing AMR, regulations, and previous experience with treatment. Register now, and save the date!

Phage TherapyVirtual Event

Join us April 13 at 4PM CEST for PHAVES #14, which will be a seminar with Dr. Clara Torres-Barceló (Plant Pathology Unit, INRAE, Avignon, France) entitled: “Jack of all strains, master of none? Host range and efficacy in phages of a phytopathogenic bacterium”. Small group networking to follow! Register here!

PHAVESVirtual EventPhage Therapy

We’re excited to announce that we’re starting a new stream of PHAVES, running parallel to our researcher-focused series. The new series will focus on phage therapy in the clinic. We’ll be featuring clinicians who have treated patients with phages, but will also bring in patients and beyond. The goal is to facilitate knowledge exchange between those using phages and those interested in learning more.

To start us off, join us April 14 at 3pm Pacific time for an interview with Dr. Randy Fish (DPM, Podiatrist in chronic wound healing and clinical research using bacteriophage in diabetic foot infections, Tacoma Diabetic Foot Clinic and PhageBiotics Research Foundation).

At this event, Jessica will interview Randy about his work and vision when it comes to using phages to treat diabetic foot infections. We’ll discuss Randy’s goals to look at topical or localized use of phage to avoid the use of antibiotics, his vision on using phage to catch infections early, and his interest in testing how much and how often phage should be applied for optimal results. Small group networking to follow! Register here!

PHAVESVirtual EventPhage Therapy

UCSD’s phage therapy center, IPATH, released its latest quarterly newsletter! It features an interview with David Pride, with questions like ‘what is a phage library’, ‘how could a phage library benefit patients’, and more! It also features an interview with Roland Liu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Pride lab, which talks about what brought him to IPATH and what he’s working on now.

NewsletterPhage community

Phage Club on Clubhouse (a new audio-only chat app) is back next week on Wednesday night (9PM Eastern).

Also, Sabrina Green and Adriana Carolina Hernandez Morales have been hosting Phage Club rooms on Fridays (Phage Phridays!) at 1PM Central! (Today featured special guest Evelien Adriaenssens!)

These are casual, fun chats that dig into new topics each week. They’re designed to be drop-in, and are well suited for those who just want to listen in. Jump in for 10 mins or stay the whole hour!

Email [email protected] if you need an invite to Clubhouse! (Currently only for iPhone).

Virtual EventClubhouse

Felix Biotechnology is gearing up to submit a phage emoji to the unicode consortium! Vote on your favourite design here!

Phage phun!

How to respond when someone asks you for phage therapy

Profile Image
Phage microbiologist and co-founder of Phage Directory
Co-founder
Phage Directory, Atlanta, GA, United States

Jessica Sacher is a co-founder of Phage Directory and has a Ph.D in Microbiology and Biotechnology from the University of Alberta.

For Phage Directory, she takes care of the science, writing, communications, and business aspects.

If you’ve published on phage, or shared phage content on social media, you’ve probably gotten a request from a patient or family member asking for phage therapy. Maybe your inbox is full of these requests, and you don’t know what to tell people. Is phage therapy an option for them? How should they begin?

It doesn’t help that people are frequently in a desperate scenario by the time they start reaching out to phage researchers for help, making it feel even harder to say you don’t know or to ignore the request.

Well, you’re not alone—researchers commonly ask us what they should tell people who ask them for phage therapy, so we’ve written up a general version of this frequently-asked question, our answer (short version: feel free to send phage therapy-seekers to Phage Directory!), and a quick response template you can use/adapt the next time you get asked for phage therapy.

Note: We wrote this guide mainly for those who receive requests and are not the patient’s treating physician. That said, if you’re a physician looking at using phage for your patient(s), please read on for resources you can use too!

Question:

Hi Phage Directory,

I have seen an uptick recently of people writing to me about the possibility of phage therapeutics to help people that they know. Do you have a recommended response to people these days? Generally, in order to make positive progress they need to be connected to people who might have phages for their cases, but they also need a physician who is willing to consider treating. Any advice?

— A Researcher

Answer:

Dear Researcher,

We get a lot of requests like this — you’re not alone! The first thing we do is make it clear that having a physician on board who is willing to explore phage therapy is required, and should be step one. We then share this phage therapy information page, which explains when and how Phage Directory can get involved for step two, which is finding sources of phages. The above page also links to various options for traveling for phage therapy, which we also suggest people explore.

Many patients get stuck at this point as they can’t convince their doctor to consider phage therapy, but sometimes they do make it happen. If they do, we have them put their doctor in touch with us and we go from there. Depending on the situation, we may proceed to sending out a phage alert to identify sources of phages (our alerts go out to 300+ labs/researchers/companies willing to do phage hunts), and/or we connect their doctor with a phage-experienced clinician in our network to discuss the case.

To this end, we’re currently building up a network of doctors interested in receiving referrals, so we won’t have to turn as many people away. (Side note: if you’re a physician interested in phages or already using phages, please join the community here!)

To keep things simple, you can always direct patients, family members and physicians who ask you about phage therapy to Phage Directory (ther[email protected]) and we will do what we can to help those we can help, and provide further clarification to those we can’t.

— Phage Directory

Quick email template you can use/adapt

Dear [patient or family member seeking phages],

I’m so sorry to hear about your/your family member’s situation. To find out about options for phage therapy that may be available to you, I suggest you reach out to Phage Directory ([email protected]). They also have an information page here which may be helpful to read first: https://phage.directory/phagetherapy.

Helpful links

  • If you’re a physician interested in phages or already using phages, please join the community here!
  • If you’re a physician with a patient who needs (or might need) phages, email [email protected] to discuss sending out a Phage Alert to 300+ phage labs willing to do phage hunts for patients
  • We’ve just launched a new virtual event series geared toward clinical use of phages; sign up for the first event here (April 14 at 3PM Pacific), which will be an interview with Dr. Randy Fish, a podiatrist who has successfully used phage therapy to treat a series of diabetic foot infections
  • Feel free to pass this phage therapy information page on to anyone who asks for phage therapy and wants to know more about their options
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