Leicester scientists identify novel approach to treat and prevent global health threat

Leicester scientists have previously identified the potential of using a bacteriophage cocktail to eradicate Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) and in this research, using an insect model, they show that their prophylactic use can prevent infection forming in the first place.

The data, which is the result of research conducted by researchers Janet Nale, Ph.D. and Professor Martha Clokie, both from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, demonstrated that C. difficile phages are particularly effective when used to prevent infection, but they are also good at targeting harmful bacterial infections once biofilms have formed.

Using biofilm and waxworms as models, these phages reduced C. difficile bacterial counts when administered as a preventative measure. Furthermore, combinations of phages and vancomycin led to a marked decrease in C. difficile colonisation in the waxworms.

The paper is now published online and is expected to be published in a hard copy special issue of Frontiers in Microbiology dedicated to the past, present and future of phage research and development.

The study was funded by AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation, a global leader in the development of bacteriophage-based antibacterial therapies to treat drug-resistant infections.

Professor Martha Clokie has been investigating an alternative approach to antibiotics, which utilises naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages, meaning ‘eaters of bacteria’, for nearly a decade at Leicester.

This research will also be used by one of the paper's authors Dr Mahananda Chutia, a Visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow from Assam, to target harmful bacterial infections in rare Muga silkworms in order to protect them from disease.

Muga silk yarn is golden in colour and is produced only in Assam, India, by Muga caterpillars to form their cocoons. As one of the rarest and most valuable silks in the world, it remains an integral part of the tradition and culture there.

Watch a video of Dr Clokie explaining the research below: