The Return of the 'Phage
Pioneering research into bacteriophage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics will be discussed at this year’s Frank May Prize Lecture on Monday 21 September at the University of Leicester.
In the free public lecture, entitled 'The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend: Developing viruses as novel therapeutics to treat bacterial infection', Professor Martha Clokie, Professor of Microbiology in the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, will discuss the end of effectiveness of antibiotics and the development of bacteriophages as therapeutics.
2015 marks 100 years since bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) were discovered. Soon after their discovery they developed as therapeutics to treat a wide range of topical and internal bacterial infections.
However, after the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940s this research stalled in the western world, and instead bacteriophages were used to unravel the fundamentals of molecular biology. Antibiotics were seen as being so useful that it was thought that bacteriophages were unnecessary as treatment options because they were more complicated to use than standard chemical antibiotics.
In the 1990s it was realised how abundant bacteriophages are globally, with an impressive estimate of 1031 bacteriophages on earth. All bacteria have these natural enemies that play important roles in their evolution and biology.
Professor Clokie said: "There is now a growing realisation that we are dangerously close to running out of antibiotics to treat many bacteria that cause diseases in humans and animals. This awareness has incentivised a return to look at developing bacteriophages as therapeutics. It is an exciting time to be doing this work as we have access to tools such as genome information that can inform bacteriophage therapeutic development, such tools were not available during the early phase of bacteriophage therapy research."
The Frank May Prize was endowed by Dr Frank May MBE. The prize is based on evidence of research excellence during the previous two years and evidence of outstanding promise for the future. It is awarded in competition in the University of Leicester College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology. To encourage and reward medical research Dr May has also established a biennial lecture given by a national or international speaker to an invited audience.