Phage therapy is a promising alternative (or a complementary treatment) to antibiotics. The historical overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to the global issue of antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria become strongly resistant to antibiotics or other disinfectants, leading to dangerous “superbugs” including MRSA. The World Health Organisation has recognised this issue as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity.
Phages (short for bacteriophages) are viruses, but unlike coronavirus or flu, they infect and kill bacteria. There are more phages on the Earth than there are stars in the Universe and they exist everywhere that bacteria do. The use of these phages to treat bacterial infections was developed predominantly in Georgia, Russia and Poland, even before antibiotics were discovered! With the rise of antibiotic resistance, scientists are starting to rediscover phage therapy as a treatment for bacterial infections, either in conjunction with antibiotics or as an alternative to them, and it is gradually starting to be used in serious “superbug” cases.
In this project, Dr Temperton and his team need the help of citizen scientists to become Phage Hunters, to seek out phages in the natural environment and help build a phage library for the UK.
We will be recruiting Phage Hunters from communities across the South West, particularly those who would not normally have opportunities to engage with scientific research – both school children and adults will be taking part. We are launching our first school workshops this term, and in early 2022 we’ll be working with community builders across the region to recruit more phage hunters. We’re really hoping this is the start of a significant project for both science and society, and we’re thrilled to be able to contribute!