Rowlett Woman Cured By Drinking Live Virus - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Rowlett Woman Cured By Drinking Live Virus

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    Rowlett Woman Cured By Drinking Live Virus

    It took five years, but a North Texas woman has finally been cured of an infection that antibiotics couldn't kill. She traveled halfway around the world to find the cure in the form of a virus. (Published Thursday, June 21, 2018)

    When we first reported on Patti Swearingen of Rowlett in March 2016, she was in pain.

    She had lived with urinary tract infections for five years because the bacteria causing it had become resistant to antibiotics.

    Out of desperation, she traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia in Eastern Europe to try what's called bacteriophage therapy, an experimental treatment in which you ingest live viruses called bacteriophages, that will kill infection-causing bacteria in your body.

    For Swearingen, it worked.

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    "I honestly feel like I've gone from death to life in a few months," says Swearingen.

    Three months ago, she traveled to a small clinic in Tbilisi, where doctors have been using bacteriophage therapy for more than 80 years.

    Bacteriophages are live viruses that exist in nature. They're bacteria's natural enemies.

    "Basically the little phages go througholut your entire body, searching for that bacteria, so if you had a resevoir somewhere that was holding the bacteri that kept reinfecting you, it's going to find that," says Swearingen.

    She took video on her phone of the treatment process in Tbilisi where doctors gave her an IV cocktail of vitamins before having her drink the phages twice a day for two weeks.

    She continued drinking the phages for a few extra days when she got home to Rowlett.

    She started taking the phages March 26th and hasn't had a positive culture of the bacteria causing her UTIs since.

    She says the infection is gone, as are the side affects of all the antibiotics she was on.

    "Really there was nothing that agreed with my system. I can eat anything now."

    She believes bacteriophage therapy can help thousands of other Americans suffering from chronic infections.

    Currently, the therapy isn't approved by the FDA.

    "We need this in the United States, we do! Not everyone can go to Tblisi. It's a wonderul place if you can go, but if you can't, we need a way to get it here."

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    USC San Diego announced that it's creating the first phage therapy center in North America.

    They'll do clinical trials and offer the therapy for patients who've run out of options.

    To read more on Swearingen's recovery, bacteriophage therapy and its future in the United States, read science writer Anna Kuchment's article in the Dallas Morning News.

    Anna Kuchment contributed to this story.

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