Exhausted, sick and struggling to breathe – that’s how Nicole Stringer feels almost every day.
The 27-year-old from Kelowna, B.C. was born with cystic fibrosis – a genetic disorder that causes mucus to clog her lungs and damages her organs.
She is also infected with a superbug – a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa that antibiotics can’t kill.
“(The superbug) will never go away so you are constantly sick and the older you get, the worse it gets,” said Nicole, who has documented her painful journey in video diaries that she posts online.
She uses puffers, an oxygen machine and takes a hundred pills every day to control symptoms like fever and nausea. But she’s still in and out of hospital every few months.
Like all CF patients, Nicole knows her lungs could fail at any time.
That’s why she travelled to the U.S. to become the first Canadian CF patient to try an experimental treatment called phage therapy – using viruses to kill bacteria. She’s part of a group of 13 patients receiving care at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
A CANADIAN DISCOVERY
Phage therapy may not available in Canada but it did start here over 100 years ago.
French Canadian scientist Felix d’Herelle co-discovered these micro killers in 1917. Early studies showed they were very good at controlling outbreaks of dysentery and typhoid plague.
But phages were abandoned in favour of antibiotics, which could be mass produced and were much more profitable. Eventually, D’Herelle moved to the Soviet Union to continue his work. And phages were relegated to fuck offs of mainstream medicine.