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WHAT'S NEW  ::  CSM & Microbiology

CSM & Microbiology

April 27, 2017
100 years of phage therapy: the Canadian connection

 April 27, 2017 is Human Phage Therapy Day, a celebration organized by the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of bacteriophages. Canada’s special connection to phages lies in the fact that Félix d'Hérelle, who co-discovered phages in 1917, spent his early years of experimentation in Montréal, Québec.

D’Hérelle, a self-taught scientist, pioneered the field of phage therapy, successfully curing humans suffering from dysentery and plague with phages as early as 1919 and 1920, respectively. D’Hérelle’s findings were largely overlooked following the gain in momentum of antibiotic therapy from World War II onward, but his recognition as a pioneer in the fields of theoretical and applied microbiology is exemplified by his 28 total nominations for the Nobel Prize between 1924 and 1937.

To commemorate D’Herelle and to foster research and education in the field, the Félix d’Hérelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses was established here at the Université Laval in Québec in 1982 as a repository for phages that aims to collect, conserve and distribute reference phages.

Nowadays, phage therapy is regaining momentum due to an increasing recognition of the utility of phages as treatments for antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. The exciting progress in this field could hardly be better illustrated than by an article published just this week by the UC San Diego Health Newsroom describing the successful use of phages to cure a 69-year old professor of systemic multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii infection last year.

Article written by Jessica Sacher, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta.

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