Israel researchers at Hebrew University have found a potential way to fight drug-resistant bacteria in an unlikely place, a Jerusalem sewage treatment facility.

Infections in post-root canal patients are often the result of drug-resistant bacteria, particularly Enterococcus faecalis. Also responsible for some urinary tract infections and bacteremia, Enterococcus faecalis is a potentially life-threatening pathogen, and one of the growing number of drug-resistant bacteria that kill 50,000 people in the U.S. and Europe each year.

Now, using a virus Hebrew University scientists found in the sewer, researchers are hoping a way to stop the killer microbe in its tracks.
Led by Dr. Ronen Hazan from the University’s Institute of Dental Sciences and Dr. Nurit Beyth from the dental school, the team has proposed a way to infect the a strain of the bacteria with a ‘phage’ or a virus that kills the bacteria.

Using the phage found in the sewage, named EFDG1, the team was able to infect and kill the V583 strain of E. faecalis, the antibiotic resistant strain.

Hazan explained that the idea is not really new, but was not fully explored because for a while chemical antibiotics seemed to work well for most infections.

With drug-resistant infections on the rise, however, Hazon said it is the perfect time to re-consider ways to use the phages to naturally kill bacteria.

“We stand on the verge of a new era with the limitations of synthetic antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria,” the Hebrew University researcher said. “Thus it is the right time to look again into what Mother Nature offers in the battle against bacteria. As this research shows, bacteriophages may prove an effective tool in the development of much-needed new antimicrobial drugs.”