The Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) and AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation have signed an agreement to develop medical products that use bacteriophages to treat burns, skin and soft tissue infections, and diarrheal diseases.
Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically infect and kill bacteria, including harmful bacteria that can be used in addition to antibiotics when treating bacterial infections when they are is drug resistant.
“Bacteriophages are attractive therapeutics because they are so highly specific for their bacterial hosts and because they proliferate within them, which means you have a therapeutic that replicates itself at the site of the infection as it kills the target pathogen”, said Dr. Mikeljon Nikolich, Bacteriophage Science lead at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
As he further explained, “While the high specificity of bacteriophages for their bacterial hosts is a big safety asset, it also presents a challenge because to obtain broad spectrum activity, we need to carefully select mixtures of different bacteriophages to address the full range of target pathogens.”
Bacteriophages were discovered in the early 1900s and have been used for decades in several countries especially in Eastern Europe and throughout the former Soviet Union to treat bacterial dysentery, staph, infections, and gas gangrene. Bacteriophages were once marketed as medical products in the U.S. but their use declined once antibiotic drugs emerged as potent tools to treat bacterial infections.
As with the development of other medical products, compliance with regulations is enforced by FDA. Currently, the FDA has not licensed bacteriophages for use as treatments for bacterial infections. Also, the number of known FDA-regulated clinical studies using bacteriophages as potential treatments is very small.