Quantitative models of phage-antibiotic combination therapy

mSystems 5:e00756-19
Year of Publication: 
Rodriguez-Gonzalez, R.A., C.-Y. Leung, B.K. Chan, P.E. Turner and J.S. Weitz

The spread of multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria is a global public health crisis. Bacteriophage therapy (or “phage therapy”) constitutes a potential alternative approach to treat MDR infections. However, the effective use of phage therapy may be limited when phage-resistant bacterial mutants evolve and proliferate during treatment. Here, we develop a nonlinear population dynamics model of combination therapy that accounts for the system-level interactions between bacteria, phage, and antibiotics for in vivo application given an immune response against bacteria. We simulate the combination therapy model for two strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one which is phage sensitive (and antibiotic resistant) and one which is antibiotic sensitive (and phage resistant). We find that combination therapy outperforms either phage or antibiotic alone and that therapeutic effectiveness is enhanced given interaction with innate immune responses. Notably, therapeutic success can be achieved even at subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics, e.g., ciprofloxacin. These in silico findings provide further support to the nascent application of combination therapy to treat MDR bacterial infections, while highlighting the role of innate immunity in shaping therapeutic outcomes.