Superbugs! The woman’s love and knowledge of science saved the life of her husband in the hospital, who, according to the doctors, had only days to live. Tom Patterson was dying in a US hospital from a massive bacterial infection contracted during a trip to Egypt.
But infectious disease epidemiologist Stephanie Stretdy did not accept the prognosis and vowed that she would not give up on the search for a cure for the love of her life.
After sifting through mountains of medical research, he finally found something that gave him hope: the phage cure. Phages are mature viruses that literally eat bacteria.
The promise with him “unconscious”
His wife, Strathdy, spent agonizing months in 2016 under bedside surveillance at UC San Diego Hospital, where she served as dean of global health sciences.
“I said. “Honey, we’re running out of time. I need to know if you want to live. I don’t even know if you hear me, but if you hear me and want to live, please shake my hand.’ I waited and waited and all of a sudden he squeezed really hard,” she told CNN International.
From that moment on, Strathdee was determined to find a cure, even if it meant interfering with the common disease in his head.
A race against time
Stretdy reached out to a researcher in Tbilisi, Georgia, whose work she found online, and found that while the protocol was unusual, long-term studies in the U.S. and abroad had already shown that the natural treatment showed promising results in some cases.
However, finding the more than 10 million trillion trillion unique phages on the planet that specifically fed on the Acinetobacter baumannii that afflicted Tom was like finding a tiny star in a vast galaxy.
The deadly superbug was nicknamed Iraqibacter because wounded combat troops were sometimes infected in Iraq, and it ranks first on the World Health Organization’s list of dangerous pathogens.
how did you get it
Undaunted, Strathdee quickly began to make contact with Tom to heal him, which he desperately needed to survive.
His first task was to get scientists to track down and purify phage samples that fed on the specific strain of bacteria that was killing Tom.
Texas A&M University biochemist Ryland Young, who had been tracking phages for more than four and a half decades, was ready to help. US Navy researchers soon signed up for the mission as well.
Strathdee’s request to the FDA to expedite a “compassionate use” order that would allow doctors to administer the experimental treatment was granted in record time.
Three weeks later, Tom was injected with his first intravenous dose of the Texas A&M team’s purified “phage cocktail.”
Since it had no ill effects, he received his second intravenous dose, provided by the US Navy, two days later.
The wonderful results were like something out of an episode of House (minus the rebel hero Hugh Laurie, of course).
Not long after his second phage IV boost, Tom, who had been in a coma, was able to lift his head and kiss his daughter’s hand.
Tom Patterson is believed to be the first US patient with systemic superbug infection successfully treated with intravenous phage therapy.
Taking the treatment to others
Six years before Patterson’s recovery, Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, a distinguished infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego who managed her husband’s care, opened the Center for Innovative Phage Application and Therapy (IPATH), a facility that treats and counsels patients with drug-resistant infections.
As Schooley prepares to begin clinical phage trials on the antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium linked to cystic fibrosis, Strathdee is also working to create a worldwide “phage library” in hopes of streamlining the process of acquisition, purification and cataloging. collection of infection-specific phages.
Although there are lingering and sometimes debilitating effects from her battle with superbugs, Patterson currently lives a happy and productive life, for which she and Strathdee are deeply grateful.
“We are not complaining! I mean, every day is a gift, right?” Strathdee told CNN.
“People say, ‘Oh my God, all the planets had to line up for this couple,’ and we know how lucky we are.”
To learn more about this couple’s incredible story, read their memoir, The Perfect Predator: A scientist races to save her husband from deadly superbugs.
With information from GNN