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For many years Martin Darling suffered from chronic headaches taking a huge toll on his everyday life. The good news is medical research changed his life!

Constantly on antibiotics for what he thought were minor infections, Martin continued to have no relief and knew something needed to change. Sent by his doctor for CT and MRI scans of his brain, facial bones and sinuses it was discovered that Martin suffered from chronic sinus infections.

Referred to ENT specialist Professor Peter-John Wormald in December 2013, Martin underwent Functional Endoscopic Sinus and Septoplasty Surgery at Memorial Hospital in North Adelaide in May 2014 to treat his sinus infections.

“Things dramatically improved after the surgery. My headaches had stopped and I began sleeping a lot better!” Martin said.

Despite the success of the operation, Martin was still suffering from recurring infections and Prof Wormald soon discovered Martin had a staph infection in his sinuses, which explained the constant sinus infections. In January 2016 Prof Wormald was conducting a world-first clinical trial for a promising new treatment for chronic sinusitis and Martin didn’t hesitate to participate.

Prof Wormald with Martin during filming for Catalyst on the life-changing treatment.
Prof Wormald and Martin during filming for television show Catalyst.

Prof Wormald and his research team including PhD Candidate Dr Mian Li Ooi and Research Assistant Sophia Moraitis at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI), have been developing the treatment for the clinical trial – an alternative nasal flush treatment.

“Our research is about finding an alternative treatment for patients like Martin who are not responding to the current medical and surgical therapy.  We believe there are bacteria that keep growing back inside these patients sinuses after oral antibiotic treatments and these are learning to reproduce, making them a thousand times more resistant to all antibiotics,” Dr Ooi explained.

“The bacteria that learns to reproduce is called biofilm, and our aim is to find an alternative treatment that is going to penetrate the biofilm and kill the bacteria to ensure it doesn’t come back.

“In this bacteriophage (phage) trial we developed a nasal flush that patients use twice daily, for seven to 14 days, the phage is a type of virus that is very specific to bacteria which will be able to target and essentially hijack the mechanism within the bacteria.

“We are testing to find the optimum dose and the right concentration of phage that we should use, as well as the right duration of treatment.”

Martin began phage therapy in January 2016 and used the therapy twice a day for seven days.

“I have been extremely lucky and haven’t experienced any bad side effects from the phage therapy,” Martin said.

“This trial absolutely changed my life! During my last visit to Prof Wormald before the trial, I was suffering from nasal polyp’s (soft jelly-like growths), which Prof Wormald noted have gone, saving the need for further surgery.

“Prof Wormald also believes there is now no sign of staph infection, but it is still early stages.  I cannot thank Prof Wormald and the researchers involved enough.  They have changed my quality of life for the better and hopefully can continue to do so in the future.  I am now headache and pain free, and can enjoy my life with my wife, Val.”

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