Lessons Learned From the First 10 Consecutive Cases of Intravenous Bacteriophage Therapy to Treat Multidrug-Resistant Bacterial Infections at a Single Center in the United States

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020 Aug 27;7(9):ofaa389. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofaa389. eCollection 2020 Sep.


Background: Due to increasing multidrug-resistant (MDR) infections, there is an interest in assessing the use of bacteriophage therapy (BT) as an antibiotic alternative. After the first successful case of intravenous BT to treat a systemic MDR infection at our institution in 2017, the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH) was created at the University of California, San Diego, in June 2018.

Methods: We reviewed IPATH consult requests from June 1, 2018, to April 30, 2020, and reviewed the regulatory process of initiating BT on a compassionate basis in the United States. We also reviewed outcomes of the first 10 cases at our center treated with intravenous BT (from April 1, 2017, onwards).

Results: Among 785 BT requests to IPATH, BT was administered to 17 of 119 patients in whom it was recommended. One-third of requests were for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Mycobacterium abscessus. Intravenous BT was safe with a successful outcome in 7/10 antibiotic-recalcitrant infections at our center (6 were before IPATH). BT may be safely self-administered by outpatients, used for infection suppression/prophylaxis, and combined successfully with antibiotics despite antibiotic resistance, and phage resistance may be overcome with new phage(s). Failure occurred in 2 cases despite in vitro phage susceptibility.

Conclusions: We demonstrate the safety and feasibility of intravenous BT for a variety of infections and discuss practical considerations that will be critical for informing future clinical trials.

Keywords: bacteriophage therapy; multidrug-resistant infections; phage therapy.