With the increased use of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners, many resistant bacteria have evolved. Often called “superbugs,” these bacteria can cause serious infections in various parts of the body, including the mouth. Some strains of resistant bacteria even include those commonly found in the mouth that cause bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Sewer Virus Cure
In response to the rising threat of these “superbugs,” scientists have been looking at alternative methods of treatment, using natural predators to destroy resistant strains. Called “bacteriophages” (or just “phages” to trendy medical researchers) are viruses that infect bacteria. One virus, found in sewage, shows promise in treating dental procedure infections.
The phage, called EFDG1, was isolated from sewage harvested in Jerusalem. A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Dental Medicine, and documented in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, shows that the phage was effective at killing very stubborn, drug resistant bacteria known as Enterococcus faecalis. This bacteria is particularly problematic for those undergoing dental procedures, and can lead to serious infections.
The Enterococcus faecalis (or E. faecalis as it is known by its friends) is found in the human digestive tract and can cause endocarditis (a potentially fatal heart infection), bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream), and many other serious infections. It is also to blame for urinary tract infections, meningitis, and surgical infections after oral procedures and surgery. Since it is part of the human digestive tract, it is hard to keep it out of the mouth, and it creates a biofilm where the bacteria cluster together and stick to surfaces.
Old Idea, Cutting-Edge Application
Using viruses to kill bacteria is nothing new. In fact, the idea was first pioneered around the same time that scientists began investigating antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics proved more immediately successful and won out in those early years. But, decades later, this idea is making a come-back in the face of the daunting prospect of an age where antibiotics are no longer effective.
When applied in a lab setting, the EFDG1 sewer virus virtually eradicated E. faecalis, even the most antibiotic resistant strains. The same researchers also found that the EFDG1 was effective at killing the E. faecalis in tissue samples, but have not yet moved to testing on live subjects.
Is It Safe?
The researchers determined through genetic sequencing and microscopic imaging that, while lethal to harmful bacteria, the EFDG1 did not appear to contain any harmful genes and did not appear to have an adverse affects on other types of cells in the tissue samples. This leads researchers to believe that it may be an effective and safe means of treating infections caused by E. faecalis and some related families of