iPATH/VII Seminar Series: Dr. Vincent Fischetti @UCSD

The motto of Rockefeller University is “science for the benefit of humanity”. In the two days that Dr. Vincent Fischetti visited the San Diego area, I felt that he and his research really exemplified this goal. Dr. Vincent Fischetti came as the sixth iPATH/VII seminar series speaker last month. Dr. Fischetti’s research “exploits the evolution of bacteria-killing viruses, known as phages, to develop new ways to prevent and treat bacterial infections. This strategy has revealed bacteria-killing enzymes and novel immunotherapies that can overcome antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

His talk at UCSD was about “Phage lysins as effective alternatives to antibiotics”.

Most of the ESKAPE pathogens are gram negative bacteria. Could we engineer lysins to go after them?

Lysins are enzymes produced by lytic phages to lyse the bacterial wall open. They are a novel and effective way to treat multidrug resistant gram positive bacteria (clinical trials are underway) and have some limited uses with gram negative bacteria. It’s amazing how effective purified lysins are—in one video that Dr. Fischetti showed us, “bacteria pop as if you were punching a hole in a water balloon” 🎈!

Dr. Fischetti envisions that phage lysins will be used in addition to the standard of care (antibiotic treatment) and that they will help curb the spread of hospital acquired MRSA. Lysins could potentially be used for wound irrigation instead of just saline, providing an additional layer of sterility in the hospital setting.

As far as resistance, there hasn’t been evidence of bacteria co-evolving to evade the lysin. More in vivo work is planned by his lab, but we’re excited to see where the upcoming clinical trials lead to!

On Thursday, we also had a chance to chat with Dr. Fischetti about his research background and ask for graduate student advice during a more intimate pizza lunch with students. (I know, I know, we were brave enough to order 🍕 for a true New Yorker. 😅) All in all, we hope that Dr. Fischetti enjoyed his stay and look forward to hearing about what he does next!

- Tiffany

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