Text: Marisol Hofmann et Stéphanie de Roguin
Photo: Laurianne Aeby

"Phage therapy can be a solution when there are no other treatment options”

Christophe Novou was saved from amputation through a phage therapy treatment. He tells his story.

“I was hit by a car when I was 10 years old. The accident left me with a fractured femur and a brain injury. I was living in Côte d’Ivoire at the time and was operated on in rather rudimentary conditions. When I came back to France, I was diagnosed with a Staphylococcus aureus infection and brittle bone disease, meaning my bones had lost calcium and become fragile. I underwent several curettage treatments and was constantly taking antibiotics. At times, it seemed to be working. In 1998, after a final curettage, my leg seemed strong enough. I started to go about my normal life, riding a motorcycle and practicing martial arts.

In 2011, the pain came back. I was once again diagnosed with a Staph-ylococcus infection. I then fell from a ladder while I was helping a friend install some shelves. I had another fracture that became infected. In two and a half years, I underwent seven operations.

In June 2013, I was told the only solution was to amputate my leg at my hip. I refused to give up.

My sister-in-law told me about a report she had seen on TV about how a patient with a similar prognosis, Serge Fortuna, had been healed with a treatment based on phage therapy. Fortuna, who co-founded the organisation Les Phages du Futur (Phages of the Future), organised a trip to Georgia to treat other patients. The departure date was set for a month later. I held a fundraiser and collected 5,000 euros out of the 8,000 I needed to travel to Tbilisi. At the hospital, the doctors found five strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria compared to the two they had found in France. I started phage treatment. After 15 days, the doctor told me I could return to France. I thought, ‘It’s no use, I might as well go home’. But actually, I was completely cured!

Phage therapy is no miracle solution. It doesn’t work every time. However, it can be a solution when there are no other options, and it doesn’t come with any side effects.

With my organisation (editor’s note: www.phages-sans-frontieres.com), we’ve already helped and saved nearly 10 people. I’m fighting for phage therapy to be introduced in France. No one knows what it is, even though it was invented a century ago. We shouldn’t have to go abroad to get treatment.”