Researchers say that a type of virus known to infect bacteria could be used to treat and prevent COVID-19 bacterial infections.
Known as bacteriophages, these viruses can be used to target and get rid of specific bacteria. A potential alternative to antibiotics, researchers have so far proposed two strategies that could potentially oust bacterial infections in some with COVID-19.
The first strategy was put forward by Dr. Marcin Wojewodzic, a researcher at the Cancer Registry of Norway. He says that bacteriophages could be used to target secondary bacterial infections in the respiratory system, thought to be a leading cause for high mortality rates from COVID-19. They could be used to both limit bacteria numbers and their spread, giving immune systems more time to generate antibodies capable of fighting of COVID-19 on their own.
"In the same way that we are used to the concept of 'friendly bacteria', we can harness 'friendly viruses' or 'phages' to help us target and kill secondary bacterial infections caused by a weakened immune system following viral attack from viruses such as COVID-19," says Professor Martha R.J. Clockie, a professor of microbiology at the University of Leicester, England.
The second proposed method suggests using inexpensive, synthetically altered bacteriophages to manufacture antibodies against COVID-19. These antibodies could then be administered to patients by either nasal or oral spray.
"This pandemic has shown us the power viruses have to cause harm. However, by using beneficial viruses as an indirect weapon against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other pathogens, we can harness that power for a positive purpose and use it to save lives", says Wojewodzic.
He has thus called for clinical trials to test both treatment strategies involving bacteriophages. He said that as no intervention alone is capable of eliminating COVID-19, it is necessary to approach the virus from multiple angles and disciplines.