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Phage therapy – a viable therapy for urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections and inflammatory bowel disease

Monash Warwick Alliance Accelerator Fund – October 2019 Round

Antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents a current threat to global health and security, making routine surgery and bacterial infections risky. Of particular concern are multidrug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat with the existing antibiotics available in clinical settings. The Enterobacteriaceae include pathogens such as Klebsiella and Escherichia coli, and it is the ability of these bacteria to acquire and share an ever-increasing number of antimicrobial resistance genes, particularly in health-care settings, that represents such a critical threat to human health.

Professor Trevor Lithgow, Laureate Fellow at Monash University and Dr Eleanor Jameson, WISB Research Career Development Fellow at University of Warwick, are collaborating together on a research project which aims to establish the effectiveness and safety risks associated with using bacteriophages (viruses that kill bacteria) as both a therapeutic to treat infections and as prophylaxis to prevent pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae infections. The work is undertaken together with A/Prof. Sheena McGowan (Monash) and Dr. Freya Harrison (Warwick).

Multi-drug resistant Enterobacteriaceae are known to cause problematic hospital-acquired infections, particularly urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pneumonia. The levels of hospital acquired multi-drug resistant Enterobacteriaceae have increased more than ten-fold across Europe since 2001 and even more so in Africa and Asia, featuring heavily in the WHO’s global list of priority pathogens.

This collaboration brings together expertise in clinically relevant models, phage ecology and structural biology to build robust, effective and integrated approach to investigate the problem of how to safely adopt phage therapy into mainstream medicine in the current void of new antimicrobial agents. The Alliance research team will establish the feasibility of phage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics, by testing the potential pitfalls of phage therapy.

Principal Applicants:
Trevor Lithgow Eleanor Jameson 

Professor Trevor Lithgow

ARC Laureate Fellow, Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Monash University

Dr Eleanor Jameson

WISB Research Career Development Fellow, School of Life Sciences

University of Warwick


Dr Sheena McGowan

Group Leader, Structural Microbiology Laboratory

Monash University

Dr Freya Harrison

Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences

University of Warwick

Visiting Fellow:

Professor Mikael Skurnik, Professor of Bacteriology, University of Helsinki