Antibiotic-resistant infections are predicted to kill 10 million people each year by 2050 -- even more than the 1.4 million deaths caused by coronavirus during the first 11 months of the pandemic. Thus, we urgently need antibiotic alternatives, particularly in Africa and Asia where 90% of the antibiotic-resistant deaths will occur. Phages for Global Health helps scientists in Africa and Asia develop cheap, natural antibiotic alternatives (phages) that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Since >50% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have received antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, the coronavirus crisis is expected to escalate antibiotic resistance rates globally. Before antibiotics were discovered, phages were used as antibacterial agents. With few other treatment options available now, phage-based drugs are regaining popularity in industrialized countries, but most researchers in developing countries lack the expertise to develop and utilize them effectively.
Phages could be particularly beneficial in the developing world since they can treat antibiotic-resistant infections, are easy to isolate from contaminated environments, relatively inexpensive to produce, and have no reported side effects. We are (1) teaching developing world scientists how to isolate phages, (2) partnering with them to develop phage products and (3) providing information to regional drug regulatory agencies to better enable them to oversee phage applications in their countries.
In 2017 we began delivering laboratory workshops, training developing world scientists how to isolate phages locally for use as antibacterial products. Those trainees have now started >50 phage research projects, won grants totaling to >$925,000 for product development, and taught phage biology to 1100 others -- we are seeing rapid scaling! Since phages can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food, livestock and people, this work could potentially save thousands of lives -- if not millions.
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