Epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee and her husband Thomas Patterson have just co-authored a new book, The Perfect Predator. The book details the scientist’s battle to save her ailing husband from a deadly superbug that infected him in 2015 after the couple traveled to Egypt. The victorious story of the introduction of phage therapy on a large scale in the United States is told together with other experiences along the way.
A Turn for the Worse
When Patterson fell sick in Egypt, the doctors’ initial belief was that he had pancreatitis. He was started on the treatment, but things only got worse. He even started having hallucinations. He was flown to Germany and found to have a bacterial infection in his pancreas. The most alarming fact about this diagnosis was that this particular bacteria was already resistant to a number of drugs.
The next part of their journey took them to the University of California, San Diego. This is where Strathdee worked. The situation only deteriorated with Patterson entering into a coma for months on end after experiencing septic shock multiple times.
Exploring Phage Therapy
The doctors tried everything, but no antibiotic worked because of the bacteria’s drug-resistant nature. Strathdee busied herself with researching possible remedies in the hopes of saving her husband’s life. She came across phage therapy, which uses viruses known as bacteriophages to target and eliminate bacteria. The treatment has been around for nearly 100 years but has not been used much as people have opted for antibiotic treatments for most bacterial infections.
The book details how Strathdee teamed up with researchers to find a bacteriophage that could target the superbug affecting her husband. The story of his amazing recovery thereafter is told. This culminated in the establishment of a phage therapy center at UC San Diego, the first of its kind in the United States.