Precision Maggot Therapy Against Key Cystic Fibrosis Pathogens

PI: Philip Mitchelmore (University of Exeter).

Co-Is: Neil Brown (University of Bath), Manon Pritchard (Cardiff University), Jonathan Tyrrell (University of Bristol / Cardiff University), Rebecca Weiser (Cardiff University).

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited life-limiting disease exacerbated by chronic lung infections. People with CF require frequent and aggressive antimicrobial treatments throughout their life. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is therefore of great concern for CF patients and new therapies are urgently needed.

This project proposes an ambitious pilot study to investigate a personalised alternative treatment against key bacterial and fungal CF pathogens. Professor Yamni Nigam from Swansea University, an expert in medicinal maggot research, will act as mentor for the project.

Medicinal maggot therapy is well established in the treatment of chronic wound infections. Maggot excretions and secretions (ES) have antimicrobial properties which can combat antimicrobial resistant infections, but this approach has not been explored beyond infected wounds. There are many similarities between infections in wounds and the CF lung, including the causative microorganisms and how these pathogens protect themselves from antimicrobials. It has been shown that exposing maggots to specific pathogens (“priming”) before collecting their ES can increase its effectiveness in killing this pathogen. Therefore, there is real potential for the development of personalised antimicrobial treatments using maggot ES to help people with CF.

Our initial work will investigate the impact of primed maggot ES on individual bacterial and fungal pathogens, and provide information on how this approach may work. The second phase of this project will involve priming maggots for personalised ES production with sputum (lung mucus) collected from CF patients. We will then use a variety of methods to assess the effectiveness of maggot ES against specific pathogens and also on the microbial community within the sputum samples.

This seed project will set the foundations for further grant applications to develop this potential novel CF therapy and help to combat AMR.