Research Projects

Phage Therapy

Phage Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis.

Project Duration – Ongoing

Led by Professor P.J.Wormald, the Adelaide ENT Research group at the Basil Hetzel Institute are aiming to eliminate drug resistant bacteria in cystic fibrosis using bacteriophage.

Bacteriophage is a virus that can eliminate very specific bacteria while leaving the patient and good bacteria unharmed. A key cause of early death of people with cystic fibrosis is the inability to control and eliminate drug resistant, deadly, bacteria in the lungs. The bacteria often hide within the sinus cavities where they re-infect both sinuses and lungs, resulting in chronically relapsing infections. This research will target the bacteria hiding within those sinus cavities.

Lead Researcher Professor PJ Wormald is Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and Professor of Skull Base Surgery at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. He is currently recognised as a leader in Sino-Nasal Disorders, FESS, and endoscopic Skull-Base Surgery. His medical practice and research interest are devoted to rhinology and skull base surgery. He has developed an animal model for eosinophilic sinusitis, to study various aspects of the disorder. Other research includes the role of the immune system and biofilms as etiologies of chronic rhinosinusitis. He is also involved in development of new clinical treatments and surgery for sino-nasal disorders.

Professor Wormald describes his phage therapy research as a ‘game changer’ for the cystic fibrosis community, and expects to see a phase 1 clinical trial in 2020. ‘My team is very excited about new research that shows (in the laboratory setting) we are able to almost completely eliminate multi-drug resistant staphylococcus bacteria with a new bacteriophage-based therapy whereas this was not possible with currently available antibiotics. This research has great potential to be of significant benefit to the cystic fibrosis patient group who are constantly battling very difficult to treat infections.”

Colleague and project collaborator Senior Scientist Associate Professor Sarah Vreugde says, “Progress has been good, we have several people working on defining the best dosage of the different active ingredients including bacteriophage and the pharmaceutical products needed to stabilise the active ingredients and improve their local action.  We are also working on optimising the delivery of the medication to the site of infection/inflammation.  Our aim is to develop a product that is very effective locally at the site where it’s needed without having the nasty side effects of systemic (oral or IV) antibiotics. We strongly believe and have great preliminary data showing that the way we are going will do that. Given that nobody has ever developed anything similar, the optimisation and validation step is critically important, and we are actively working on this”.

Check out this video to learn more about bacteriophages and the science behind this incredible research.

Professor P. J. Wormald – Basil Hetzel Institute – University of Adelaide



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