In April, it was reported that 69-year‑old Tom Patterson, an American who fell gravely ill with an antibiotic-resistant acinetobacter infection, had been brought out of a two-month coma by an injected cocktail of bacteriophages, tiny viruses that specifically attack and kill bacteria. The story is a testament to Patterson's wife (Steffanie Strathdee, a scientist), who searched for alternative therapies when conventional treatments failed, to his physician, Robert Schooley, who used an untested treatment, and to a large band of phage scientists, led by Ryland Young of Texas A&M University and Theron Hamilton of the US Naval Academy. Their long-term, and sometimes unfashionable, research work meant that phages were available in their labs for the rescue attempt. Because a mixed-phage cocktail was used, no one is sure what tipped the balance, but, importantly, it worked. The Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia has dispensed phage therapy for years, but it was little tried in the west until recently.
Images captured by an underwater robot on Saturday showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1m on the bottom inside a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, said the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. Locating and analysing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant's three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. During this week's probe, cameras mounted on the robot showed extensive damage caused by the core meltdown, with fuel debris mixed with broken reactor parts, suggesting the difficult challenges ahead in the decades-long decommissioning of the plant.