Episode Summary

Using phages to target gold nanoparticles to infect bacteria, then using light to heat the nanoparticles just enough to kill the bacteria!

Thanks to Huan Peng and Raymond Borg for contributing!

News item: A controlled phage therapy can target drug-resistant bacteria while sidestepping potential unintended consequences

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Pantoea agglomerans

Jesse's takeaways

Viruses that infect bacteria, bacteriophages, are often very good at overcoming bacterial defenses and killing them. This raises the possibility, and many times actuality, of using phages to treat bacterial infections that are no longer treatable with antibiotics. But bacteria can evolve resistances to viruses as well as drugs, and using multiplying, evolving entities as treatments in people raises questions about the safety and consistency of the treatment.

This study circumvents these questions by using phages for delivery and targeting of bacteria rather than the therapeutic agent itself. The actual treatment is done with tiny rods of gold, gold nanorods, bound to the phage surface. When a certain wavelength of light hits these nanorods, they vibrate enough to generate enough heat in their immediate surroundings to render nearby bacteria nonviable. Thus the infection is treated in a very localized, targeted way that doesn't leave any active bacteria or phages behind. The authors have plans to study this approach as a topical treatment of wounds.

Journal Paper

Peng H, Borg RE, Dow LP, Pruitt BL, Chen IA. 2020. Controlled phage therapy by photothermal ablation of specific bacterial species using gold nanorods targeted by chimeric phages. Proc Natl Acad Sci 117:1951–1961.

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