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THE OCTAVIAN REPORT: GOING VIRAL
Read Story Transcript Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson were on the trip of a lifetime to Egypt in 2015 when Patterson fell ill from powerful bacteria known as Acinetobacter baumannii. “I was in and out of a coma. I was hallucinating,” Patterson told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.
Steffanie Strathdee is an infectious-disease epidemiologist, and associate dean of global health sciences and professor at the University of California, San Diego, school of medicine. She also directs the new UC San Diego Center for Innovative Phage Application and Therapeutics and is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins and Simon Fraser Universities.
For three months, she’d watched helplessly as he fought a losing battle for his life – much of it in a coma and connected to a ventilator – while teams of specialists tried unsuccessfully to kill the antibiotic-resistant bacteria devouring his body.
WIRED: So how did you convince Tom’s doctors that this approach was worth trying, given its tumultuous history? SS: You know, we’ve become risk-averse in our approach to medicine, especially in the US, because of litigation-the whole worry that if we try this experimental treatment and the patient dies, they’ll sue us.
The FDA has given clearance for the first clinical trial in the United States to test an IV-administered bacteriophage-based therapy to kill drug-resistant bacteria.The agency accepted an investigational new drug application for the planned trial from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, according to a news release.
The Book Doctors: You have one of the single most compelling personal stories we’ve ever heard. Give us the trajectory from this incredible period in your lives to the moment where you decided to write a book about it.
Two days after walking through the pyramids, Tom Patterson got very sick. The psychiatry professor was in Egypt with his wife on one of their many adventurous vacations away from life in California. One minute he was fine, hamming it up in a touristy horse-and-buggy ride across the desert.
When Thomas Patterson woke up from a two-month coma in March 2016, he learned two things he couldn’t believe: Donald Trump was soon to become the Republican nominee for president, and his wife, Steffanie Strathdee, had saved him from dying of an antibiotic-resistant superbug by injecting him with viruses harvested from sewage.
Tom Patterson should have died during those weeks in March 2016 when he lay comatose, a lethal strain of multi-drug-resistant bacteria raging through his body. Antibiotics proved useless, and his doctors were grim. They were losing him. He should have died, but he didn’t.
Physicians are turning to phage therapy as a treatment, which is seen as one of the more promising frontiers in the war on superbugs.
Steffanie Strathdee hunched over her laptop, fretting. She barely noticed the kittens asleep next to her or the serene Buddha figure across the living room, anchored next to the glass doors that looked toward the gleaming Pacific.
How the Navy brought a once-derided scientist out of retirement – and into the virus-selling business
As the Navy tapped into its virus library to treat a man on the brink of death with phage therapy, little did it know it was about to jump-start a virus-selling family business – with a former race-car driver as CEO.