French Pherecydes Pharma has launched the first EU clinical bacteriophage phase I/II trial to fight hospital acquired infections (HAIs) in military hospitals and burn units. In collaboration with two other French biotechs, the Phagoburn project aims to combat the stigma against human bacteriophage therapies in the EU and US in order to battle the oncoming wave of antibiotic resistance.

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The Phagoburn clinical trial is set to go ahead in 3 Military hospitals which treat soldier burn-patients, co-ordinated by the Percy Military Hospital (a Service de Santé des Armées base) as part of the French Ministry of Defense. An additional 11 burns units across France, Belgium and Switzerland will also trial the two Phagoburn therapies, seeing as infection is the leading cause of death in burn victims.

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Bacteriophage therapy has been used in humans for around 90 years, with the first example also being in a French hospital in 1919, when d’Hérelle used human bacteriophages from the stools of soldiers at the Pasteur Institute to successfully treat children with severe dysentry. And today they’re still used by the military in Georgia, Poland and Russia to combat infections instead of relying on broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Bacteriophages are already commonly used by the military in former USSR to fight infection, and are applied topically to burns etc. (Source: Eliava Institute)

Bacteriophages are already commonly used to fight infection by the military in former USSR members Georgia, Poland and Russia, applied topically to burns etc. (Source: Eliava Institute)

The benefits of phage therapy are vast, yet there is little European or US use of this live-alternative to antibiotics (read this in-depth article on Buzzfeed to find out more), with the only unit on phage research in the whole of Europe being the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy in Wroclaw, Poland. Since the benefits of of bacteriophages include a much higher specificity when compared to antibiotics (and therefore minimal risk of side effects – i.e. a high therapeutic index), Pherecydes Pharma wants to know why we’re not doing more to use phages to fight hospital acquired infections (HAIs) such as Stapylococcus aureus and Psuedomonas aeruginosa strains.

As we know, the rise of antibiotic resistance is getting scary where it is estimated that by 2050 up to 10 million people will die per year from drug-resistant infections. Thus, the focus on finding a solution to this problem is paramount.

Pherecydes already boasts the worlds largest library of phages engineered to fight Escherichia coli, and will be collaborating on the Phagoburn trials with French biotechs Clean Cells, for bioproduction, and CRO Statitec for management of trial data. With up to €3.85M grant from the European Union FP7 program, Phagoburn has demonstrated its universal value in developing potential therapies to fight hospital infections.

Ultimately, it is hoped the results from this trial will  help overcome the EU misconception of bacteriophages, potentially even going on to win a US FDA seal of approval for future hospital use.

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