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Wife relies on the natural enemy of bacteria to rescue her husband from a life-threatening disease

A woman goes for an unconventional treatment method to save her husband's life against all odds and it works!

Wife relies on the natural enemy of bacteria to rescue her husband from a life-threatening disease
Cover Image Source: Instagram | @chngin_the_wrld

In dire circumstances, people often look for unconventional solutions to fix their problems. It is a hit or miss - sometimes it might yield positive results but it can also end up giving no response. In Steffanie Strathdee's case (@chngin_the_wrld), luck (and research) played a vital role in saving her husband's life. The epidemiologist found herself in a dire situation back in 2016 as she watched her husband nearly die from a superbug infection. Tom Patterson was on a Thanksgiving cruise on the Nile in 2015 when he suddenly fell ill due to cramps in his stomach. Even though he was taken to a clinic in Egypt, they could do nothing to alleviate his extreme pain.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

He was then flown to Germany, where doctors came across an abdominal abscess that was the size of a grapefruit. It contained a virulent bacterium known as Acinetobacter baumanii, which was a virulent strain of bacteria that was resistant to all antibiotics, as reported by CNN. The deadly pathogen was first found in the sands of the Middle East when American troops found them in their wounds after surviving bomb blasts. It was then nicknamed "Iraqibacter."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

In an interview with CNN, Strathdee said, "Veterans would get shrapnel in their legs and bodies from IED explosion and were medevaced home to convalesce." She also mentioned how many of these veterans survived the bomb blast but ultimately lost their battle with the deadly bacteria. Presently, Acinetobacter baumanii stands as one of the World Health Organization's topmost dangerous pathogens, which requires new antibiotics. She spoke about the behavior of the strain, saying, "It's something of a bacterial kleptomaniac. It's really good at stealing antimicrobial resistance genes from other bacteria."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

Strathdee also shared how she began to notice how conventional medicines did not have much of an effect on her husband. The couple went home to San Diego, where Patterson worked as a professor of psychiatry and Strathdee was the associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Robert "Chip" Schooley, a leading disease specialist and a colleague, said, "Tom was on a roller coaster—he'd get better for a few days and then there would be a deterioration and he would be very ill." It got to the point where Patterson would get multiple organ failures and he was on the verge of succumbing to the disease any day.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

In a last-ditch effort, Strathdee asked her husband if he wanted to live and to give her a signal by squeezing her hand. She said, "All of a sudden, he squeezed really hard. And I thought, 'Oh, great!' And then I'm thinking, 'Oh, c***! What am I going to do?'" Somehow, her husband's small gesture pushed her to find a cure for him. Strathdee fortunately came across a unique study conducted in Tbilisi, Georgia, where they utilized phages for the treatment of drug-resistant bacteria. She made a few calls and found out that the treatment was still being used in former Soviet bloc countries but was considered unreliable in the West.

She said, "Phages are everywhere. There are 10 million trillion trillion—that's 10 to the power of 31—phages that are thought to be on the planet. They're in soil, they're in water, in our oceans and in our bodies, where they are the gatekeepers that keep our bacterial numbers in check. But you have to find the right phage to kill the bacterium that is causing the trouble." Strathdee set out to find scientists who worked with phages.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

This involved sending cold emails to complete strangers, begging them for help. Thankfully, Ryland Young, a biochemist at Texas A&M University who had been working with phages for over 45 years, responded to her call. Young recalled, "We just dropped everything. No exaggeration; people were literally working 24/7, screening 100 different environmental samples to find just a couple of new phages." While the lab worked, Strathdee's next step was getting FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval for the injection of the phage cocktail into Patterson.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

It was a challenging process, especially because phage therapy had not undergone clinical trials in the United States, therefore, every case of "compassionate use" warranted copious amounts of documentation. In Patterson's case, he needed the injection quickly or it would be fatal for him. Thankfully, the woman who worked at the FDA told Strathdee, "No problem. This is what you need and we can arrange that." The woman also shared how she had some friends in the Navy who could procure more phages for her husband's treatment.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

As luck would have it, the US Naval Medical Research possessed banks of phages that they collected from seaports around the world. Soon enough, they were able to find a few phages that seemed to work against the bacterium. Young and his team were also able to find four promising phages that worked in battling Patterson's antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now that the cure was ready, all she had to do was overcome a few legal obstacles before injecting it into Patterson.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

The first cocktail arrived from Young's lab and was the first to be injected into Patterson's abdomen. They didn't observe any negative side effects, so they continued the therapy every two hours. Soon enough, the cocktail from the Navy arrived and Patterson was administered the cocktail to help fight the bacteria that had spread to the rest of his body. Strathdee said, "And three days later, Tom lifted his head off the pillow out of a deep coma and kissed his daughter's hand. It was just miraculous."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld)


 

Roughly eight years later, Patterson is retired, going for 3-mile walks and gardening. His illness did come with one long-term effect, which was diabetes, making him dependent on insulin. He also has a little heart damage and gastrointestinal issues. But the couple chose to look on the brighter side, having gone to Argentina recently for a 12-day trip. Their story represents the importance of resilience and will amidst extreme adversity.

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