Every year 600,000 children under two years old in the developing world die because of infectious diarrhea. Shigella spp. are a major cause of diarrhea, stunted growth, and death in children in the developing world. The cost of antibiotics, the rise of antibiotic resistance, and side-effects of antibiotics on the gut microbiota have made phage therapy an attractive alternative to treating infections caused by bacteria like Shigella.
Exploring the potential that bacteriophages (phage) have as an alternative to combat Shigella is the goal of Nathan Brown and Marta Clokie, researchers at the University of Leicester, who are currently developing the in vivo work of this project in the Animal Facility of the University of Algarve, with the support of Vítor Fernandes, CBMR researcher.
These experiments will tell them if a simple phage cocktail can effectively treat Shigella flexneri 2a in vivo and how many possible effective phage cocktails can be prepared from a library of 300 phages. Over the next two years they will test the efficacy of several phage cocktails in vivo in mice and primates, providing pre-clinical data to take Shigella phage therapy to clinical trial.
The University of Algarve, through the Centre for Biomedical Research, is, thus, at the forefront of research, hosting one of the most promising trials ever undertaken for this type of disease.