WSFA/NBC - Patti Swearingen was loading up on prescription medications. It started with a urinary tract infection. A problem she battled for years.
"They couldn't really find a definitive cause so they just kept giving me more and more and more antibiotics until it got to the point where I couldn't go off of them," said Swearingen. "I just could never go off. If I went off for a day or two, the infection would rage back and I would be just deathly sick,"
The bacteria in her body became partially resistant to the drugs.
"Antibiotics were not the answer. They were never going to fix it, in fact, they were just making things worse,"
So Patti and her family decided to try something different. The found out about a place in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia that specializes in phage therapy. The treatment uses tiny viruses found in the water and soil, to kill bad bacteria in the body.
It was a popular form of treatment until antibiotics became popular in the 1940s.
"Each individual phage is very selective in what it will kill," said Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at USC San Diego. "That's not the way you approach antibiotics. With antibiotics, a lot of the development has been trying to find antibiotics that will kill everything in sight,"
Schooley and his team needed special FDA approval to do their cases. He says it'll take a lot of clinical trials for the therapy to become an option in the US.
"The main obstacle at this point is the knowledge base of how to use them in terms of what dosage should be used, how many phages can be used together, how often you should treat them?"
As for Patti, she's ready to go. She says she can't wait for the FDA to approve it. She already has her trip planned to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where she'll spend two weeks, getting daily doses of phages.