Microbiology How are phages used in medicine

Bacteriophages as drugs

In order to approve bacteriophages as pharmaceuticals, the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM, the Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH, the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Charité Research Organization GmbH have joined forces to form the research association "Phage4Cure" . Bacteriophages recognize highly specific strains of a certain type of bacteria, attack them and ultimately destroy them. In Eastern Europe they are already used as an alternative to traditional antibiotic therapy, but they have not yet been approved in the European Union. The reasons for this are a lack of quality standards in production and evidence in systematic clinical studies that the therapy is safe, tolerable and effective.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a target

That is now the goal of the project partners. The main focus is on bacteriophages, which are directed against the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacterium is very often multi-resistant and can cause pneumonia, among other things. "Our medium-term goal is to develop phages as a novel and additional therapy for various infectious diseases and in various forms of administration as drugs - especially where antibiotics are currently reaching their limits", says Dr. Holger Ziehr, project coordinator and head of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Fraunhofer ITEM.

The partners of the research association work on different aspects of this project depending on their expertise. At the Leibniz Institute DSMZ, bacteriophages directed against Pseudomonas aeruginosa are to be identified and genetically characterized. The aim here is to find phages that recognize a large part of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains. Once these have been identified, they are handed over to the Fraunhofer ITEM for further high-purification and pharmacological production. A so-called platform-like manufacturing process for phage active ingredients is being developed there. This means that the manufacturing process can also be transferred to other phages. In addition, preclinical tests are already being carried out there.

The other preclinical tests will be carried out at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, where the conception, planning and implementation of the clinical test will also take place. The clinical study is ultimately carried out at the research station of the Charité Research Organization GmbH (CRO). In addition, the CRO will provide organizational and regulatory support for the overall project, maintain close contact with the pharmaceutical authorities, and handle data management, statistics and the preparation of the clinical study report.

Source: Fraunhofer ITEM press release