The importance of bacteriophages has come under the spotlight this week. Dr Ben Swift of the Royal Veterinary College has been awarded a prestigious Horizon award by Applied Microbiology International for his ground-breaking work developing a phage-based diagnostic for tuberculosis. Phages also hit the headlines in The Microbiologist, which includes a feature about a new Phage Directory as part of its coverage of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2023.
Basil Jarvis Prize for innovation
The Horizon Awards are designed to celebrate individuals that are challenging the boundaries of applied microbiology with new discoveries and innovations. Ben has been awarded the Basil Jarvis Prize.
Ben is a microbiologist whose research has been focussed on the development of improved diagnostic tests for mycobacterial infections including tuberculosis in humans.
He is part of a team that has invented and commercialised a bacteriophage-based technology to rapidly detect slow-growing mycobacteria responsible for diseases such as Bovine TB and Johne’s disease that cause economic and social hardship to farmers worldwide.
The phage-based diagnostic for tuberculosis has been further developed by PBD Biotech, of which Ben is a co-founder. The test, called Actiphage TB, is focussed on detecting incipient TB in humans and Actiphage is currently undergoing clinical trials.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
Tuberculosis remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. An estimated global total of 10.6 million people fell ill with the disease and 1.6 million succumbed to it in 2021.
Each of the Horizon Awards is based around one of the core UN Sustainable Development Goals, and is named after a distinguished individual who has been recognised by Applied Microbiology International (AMI) for an outstanding contribution to the field. Each prize consists of an award certificate, an unrestricted educational grant of £6,000 and a unique trophy.
Professor Basil Jarvis was a distinguished researcher in the field of food microbiology and is a past President of Applied Microbiology International.
Phages are the future!
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from 18-24 November 2023 and the Microbiologist is marking it with a feature about phages.
The feature ‘Setting up systems to make phages available to all’ describes how clinicians and researchers were resorting to using Twitter to find phages for patients that were being failed by existing antibiotics. It describes setting up of a Phage Directory to improve access to phages.
The Phage Directory has now sourced phages for more than 50 patients upon clinician request. It has also built up a community of more than 1,300 phage researchers from more than 80 countries, which collectively have over 10,000 phages against almost 200 species.
Phages are the future!