The Use of a Bacteriophage Cocktail for the Treatment of Multidrug-Resistant E. coli in Two African Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
IAAAM 2014
Michael T. Walsh1*; Chythanya Rajanna2; Craig A. Pelton1; Stephen E. Cassle1; Kelly Martin3; Tiffany Blake3
1Aquatic Animal Health Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 2Intralytics, Baltimore, MD, USA; 3Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Clearwater, FL, USA


Bacterial viruses or bacteriophages were first discovered in 19151 and during the following years the application of using viruses to attack specific bacterial infections increased in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.Efforts in its use in infectious disease forestalled in the West as a result of antibiotic development after World War II.2 Bacteriophage therapy has been applied in a number of species for conditions that have included eye infections, dysentery, colitis, peritonitis, prostate and urinary tract infections, and sepsis. Major advantages of phage therapy are its specific targeting of bacteria with little effect on the surrounding tissues and a higher reduction of target bacteria than antibiotic use alone. Another consideration is its use for multidrug-resistant organisms where antibiotics are considered impractical or selective for additional complications in an individual or the environment.

Two African white pelicans that had become hosts to a multidrug-resistant (MDR) E. coli showed notable increases in WBC and were non-responsive to standard use with oral antibiotics. At the risk of producing additional resistance, one of the two remaining injectable drugs was added to reduce the white cell count. The presence of the E. coli in the intestinal tract was not impacted and continued to persist after multidrug therapy. In addition, the E. coli was present in the fresh water pool and thought to be reinfecting the birds. A bacteriophage cocktail against the MDR E. coli was developed consisting of 4 phages at >109 pfu/ml. It was originally administered for one day intranasal, orally and by gavage following a reduction in the gastric pH with H2blockers and calcium carbonate. With recovery of the E. coli by culture in the following 2 weeks the treatment was repeated for a 3-day period with apparent removal from the intestinal tract as evidenced by negative cultures over the next 3 weeks and colonization by a very sensitive E. coli. This use illustrates the potential application of bacteriophage therapy for aquatic species, which may aid in the control or removal of multidrug-resistant organisms from infected animals reducing the exposure of cohorts, other species, caretaker personnel and the public.


The authors would like to thank the staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Patrick Thompson for their help and technical assistance.

* Presenting author

Literature Cited

1.  Twort FW. An investigation on the nature of ultramicroscopic viruses. Lancet. 1915;186:1241–1243.

2.  Abedon ST, Kuhl SJ, Blasdel BG, Kutter EM. Phage treatment of human infections. Bacteriophage. 2011;1(2):66–85.


Speaker Information
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Michael T. Walsh
Aquatic Animal Health Program
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

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