Research in Focus: Advancing Phage Therapy
As part of #BiofilmWeek, we’re highlighting interesting and exciting biofilm research from across our network and partner research institutions by early career researchers and PhD students.
We interviewed Daniela Rothschild-Rodriguez, a PhD student in Microbiology at the University of Southampton. Daniela’s research is currently focused on bacteriophages (or phages), which are viruses that infect bacteria in the context of human health and disease.
How does your work link to biofilms and Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?
Our research focuses on the pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae, which is a very clinically relevant pathogen, mainly responsible for urinary and respiratory tract infections, and more recently associated with inflammatory bowel disease through gut colonisation. Importantly, most of these infections are increasingly caused by antibiotic-resistant strains of K. pneumoniae, to such an extent that the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed it as a priority strain for the development of new antimicrobials. We therefore consider phage therapy as one of these alternatives and have now isolated 55 phages against several strains of K. pneumoniae.
What are the problems your research hopes to address?
There are several factors that currently limit the widespread use of phages as a therapy, mostly related to a lack of critical understanding about phage-bacterial and phage-human interactions, and the need for setting-up appropriate regulatory frameworks for phage therapy. As a result of these limitations, phage therapy is not offered yet as an option to treat bacterial infections in most countries, unless it is for compassionate use. Such use is limited to the clinician’s (and community) awareness of the therapy and access to a facility that can provide a relevant phage.
What we have done to address these issues is to establish an open collection called Klebsiella Phage Collection (KlebPhaCol) containing Klebsiella-targeting phages and Klebsiella sp. strains. This collection is open for researchers to access and use in their research to improve our understanding of phage-bacterial and phage-human interactions, and also for therapeutic use. We provide the strains and phages free of cost with no limitations on their use (except for commercial use), as long as any data acquired using them is feedbacked into KlebPhaCol. The objective is that the increase of knowledge supported by the collection becomes accessible to all. With this purpose, we also encourage researchers to add their phages and strains to the collection, which had incredible receptivity so far, especially because our model of sharing guarantees that users retain all their credit and IP.
Have you undertaken any public engagement and outreach activities?
I formed part of the 2022 New Scientist Live event, volunteering at NBIC’s stand where we informed people about biofilms. These are good opportunities to showcase the ongoing research and knowledge, often, individuals are very interested and engaged when learning about microbes in different contexts.
1. Panel of plates with phage representing the phage isolation of several phages.
2. TEM image from a plate in image 1.
Find out more
If you are interested in learning more about this work and would like to connect with Daniela please contact NBIC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniela Rothschild-Rodriguez, PhD student in Microbiology at the University of Southampton.