The virus that saved a man from death

It all started in January 2020. A man was admitted to the hospital with undetectable symptoms. His situation became critical. He was being undermined by antibiotic-resistant superbugs. This type of disease kills more people each year than AIDS and malaria. Would he manage to save himself? This is the story of the virus that saved a man from dying. year kills more than AIDS, malaria and some tumors.

The virus that saved a man from dying was the last resort to cure him.
The virus that saved a man from dying was the last resort to cure him.


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria most affect people weakened by other causes. This patient had chronic kidney disease and suffered from arthritis. None of the antimicrobials used could fight the bacteria causing his infection. It was Mycobacterium chelonaea pathogen of the tuberculosis family.

A year later, the infection had spread. Physician Francis M. Marty suggested to his colleagues a new treatment. Perhaps a virus would be able to cure this patient. He was referring to bacteriophage viruses. These are pathogens specialized in killing bacteria. They extracted microbes from the patient’s wounds and searched among 20 phages that could kill these bacteria. Muddy was identified, a phage that in tests eliminated without problems the M. chelonae.

It was injected into the patient intravenously. The lesions improved in just two weeks. Jessica Little, a Brigham physician, explains. She is the first author of the study describing this case today.

Antibiotic overuse favors the emergence of superbugs.
Antibiotic abuse favors the emergence of superbugs.

Virus libraries

“This is the first case where results are achieved with a single virus,” he says. “We need to better understand the interaction between these viruses and the immune system of patients.”

One goal is to create “libraries” of phages identified by the type of superbug they can annihilate. The virus that saved one man from dying could be useful in another person.

Superbugs are a direct consequence of the abuse of antibiotics. Their indiscriminate use causes many bacteria to develop immunity. The objective now is to prevent the same thing from happening with phages. That is why “lytic” viruses are sought, i.e., viruses that penetrate the bacteria and literally burst them.

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