Unfortunately, this research was not published in English-language medical journals, and remained hidden from many scientists in the West – a challenge that Hendrickson hopes to overcome with new collaborations. Just this week, a doctor using phage therapy recently got in touch with her after she took part in our Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) discussion in the run up to the WCIS event in Sydney. “It’s a really exciting opportunity to meet these people and hear what they know,” she adds.
In the West, one of the first big clinical trials will test bandages infused with bacteriophages, to see whether it could prevent infection in burn victims. And Hendrickson points to some promising individual success stories. At WCIS, Hendrickson described the case of Alfred Gertler, who suffered a nasty climbing accident that “pulverised his ankle”. He developed an infection that would not respond to antibiotics, and initially it looked like the only option was amputation. After a 10-day course of phage therapy, however, he made a complete recovery.
“It is a really potent tool,” says Hendrickson. “And we have barely scratched the diversity of this group of organisms.”