Vatsan Raman is “supercharging evolution” to create an army of bacteria-killing phages that can combat antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.
During a 2015 trip to Egypt, Tom Patterson suffered a gallstone attack and soon fell terribly ill. But that’s not what nearly killed him.
Patterson had been infected by Acinetobacter baumannii, a superbug that grew in a cyst inside his abdomen. The particular superbug — a bacterium resistant to multiple antibiotics — is often found in troops returning from the Middle East. The World Health Organization has named it one of the 12 most deadly superbugs on the planet.
The infection spread throughout Patterson’s body, leaving him fighting for his life. Soon, he was in a coma.
His wife, Steffanie Strathdee, felt chagrined — it was like the universe was playing a cruel joke. She’s an epidemiologist, professor, and associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, but the force of the superbug blindsided her. She couldn’t believe it was stealing her husband’s life and didn’t know the superbug crisis was on track to kill one person every three seconds by 2050.
Strathdee watched as her husband went in and out of septic shock. Reality hit her: Tom was going to die unless something drastic happened. “If he’s going to die,” she recalls thinking, “then I want to know that I left no stone unturned.”