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HUN-REN BRC researchers combat superbugs with "precision" viruses and a continuously updated map


A research group led by Bálint Kintses at the HUN-REN Biological Research Centre (HUN-REN BRC) in Szeged is developing a special method and service to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreading in Central-Eastern and Southeastern Europe, particularly in hospitals. The aim is to create a continuously updated superbug map, enabling the timely preparation of an effective "virus cocktail" to defeat potentially fatal bacterial infections.

Various viruses attack bacteria just as they attack humans, but fortunately, these so-called bacteriophage viruses are completely harmless to us and only replicate within bacteria. However, they have the unique ability to destroy superbugs against which antibiotics developed in recent decades have already become ineffective.

As Bálint Kintses, an internationally renowned researcher at HUN-REN BRC Szeged, emphasised, diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant infections could become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050. Together with his colleagues and collaborating partners, the Szeged-based researcher is working on creating a continuously updated bacteria map, utilising the most advanced biotechnological tools and supported by the National Laboratory of Biotechnology and the HUN-REN 'Proof of Concept' grant, involving hospitals in Hungary and abroad. This map is intended to display the types and variants of resistant pathogens prevalent in each region. This information can be used to prepare a 'phage cocktail' to effectively fight the most common, potentially fatal infections. The primary tasks include solving problems related to the previously cumbersome use of bacteriophages, modelling the spread dynamics of dangerous bacterial species, and estimating the time intervals over which bacteriophages can be effective.

Kintses Bálint

The main challenge lies in the fact that a single bacterial species can have up to a hundred variants, each requiring a specific bacteriophage, which makes precision technology essential. The research is carried out in collaboration with hospitals and universities in Hungary and neighbouring countries, as well as with the Hungarian National Public Health Centre, with the participating microbiology laboratories sending samples to the Szeged researchers.