This man should have died, but unusual infusions saved his life

Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that infect bacteria. These organisms are abundant in the environment and are a major predator of bacteria in natural systems.  Because phages naturally infect and kill bacteria, there is considerable interest in using them as antimicrobials to control bacterial populations, particularly pathogenic bacteria.

Impressive and cutting-edge research is ongoing at Texas A&M University’s Center for Phage Technology where Dr. Jason Gill, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, serves as the Associate Director. For more information, visit the CPT website:

Below is a story originally published in the Washington Post, touting the life saving abilities phages have and the willingness of the CPT to assist as needed.

Writer: Marlene Cimons

Tom Patterson should have died during those weeks in March 2016 when he lay comatose, a lethal strain of ­multi-drug-resistant bacteria raging through his body. Antibiotics proved useless, and his doctors were grim. They were losing him.

He should have died, but he didn’t. Instead, in desperation, a novel approach — giving him infusions of bacteria-killing viruses known as bacteriophages — saved his life.

“There is no question that without these phages, I wouldn’t be alive today,” he says.

Patterson, now 70, is an AIDS researcher and psychiatry professor at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine. He first became ill in November 2015 while vacationing in Egypt with his wife, Steffanie Strathdee, now 50. He began suffering abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and a racing heartbeat. The local doctors thought it was pancreatitis — an inflammation of the pancreas — but he grew sicker, even with treatment.

After a few days, he was evacuated to Frankfurt, where physicians found a pancreatic pseudocyst — a collection of fluid around the pancreas — half the size of a football. After the fluid was drained and cultured, Patterson’s doctors discovered he was infected with a multi-drug-resistant strain of Acinetobacter baumannii , an often deadly bacterium.

On Dec. 12, 2015, he was airlifted to the intensive care unit at UC San Diego’s hospital. While there, a drain designed to localize his infection slipped, causing bacteria to flood into his abdomen and bloodstream. He experienced the first of several episodes of septic shock, a condition where blood pressure drops and prevents blood delivery to the organs. He fell into a coma that lasted almost four months.

He remembers little during that period, except having persistent hallucinations. “I thought I was on a spit, turning over and over, or in the desert drinking sand,” he recalls. “I felt consumed with pain.”

He says he also could hear his wife talking to him through the fog. Physicians told her to prepare for his death, but she wasn’t ready to give up. “I knew he was really tired, and I told him I would understand if he wanted to slip away, but I asked him to squeeze my hand if he wanted to fight,” she says. He squeezed her hand.

Strathdee, who is chief of the Global Health Institute at UC San Diego, decided to explore alternatives. She had studied bacteriophages in college, and she learned that a friend of a friend had been treated successfully with phage therapy in the former Soviet Union. She raised the possibility with Patterson’s physician, Robert T. Schooley, UC San Diego’s head of infectious diseases. He said he was willing to give it a try.

They contacted the Center for Phage Technology at Texas A&M University and the U.S. Navy Medical Research Center; both had been studying phages and had phage “libraries.” Schooley sent isolates of Patterson’s bacterium to each, hoping they would be able to match it to specific phages.

Click here to read the full story.



via source The Washington Post  |  This man should have died, but unusual infusions saved his life

For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at or (979) 845-1542.

Comments are closed.