Bacteriophage: Why the antibiotic alternative is tough 2

Bacteriophage: Why the antibiotic alternative is tough

Maximilian Schmitt from Würzburg is one of 55,000 people every year in Germany who are no longer helped by antibiotics. Rodent bacteria migrated from the paranasal sinuses into the intestine. The 19-year-old student had to undergo surgery. In his misery, Maximilian made the internet smart and found an alternative that could make his healing possible: bacteriophages.

Bacteriophages destroy pathogens

Apparently they are killers of germs. Bacteriophages fit the pathogen and enter into it their genetic information. Bacteria now produces its enemies from the inside. Finally, it shoots and releases bacteria that eat. They then attack other bacteria until all pathogens are destroyed. When all hosts disappeared, bacteriophages disappeared.

Not approved as a drug in Germany

But the issue has a decisive catch: bacteriophages are not approved as drugs in Germany and at EU level. It is difficult for any doctor to know, there are no pharmacies, reports Maximilian. He had to go to Eastern Europe to get the phage in pharmacies.

In Eastern Europe bacteriophages have long been used

When it comes to fighting bacteria, Europe is still divided. While the West relies heavily on antibiotics, in some Eastern European countries today it is being treated with bacteriophages. Like in Georgia. A pharmacy in Tbilisi, selling bottles of bacteriophage at a value of 5 euros per pack.

Since it is said that bacteriophages do not harm humans or animals, they were used, for example, in the former Soviet Union for wounded soldiers, from diarrhea to burns. Bacteriophages as a cheap alternative to antibiotics: forgotten in the West. Maximilian Schmitt discovered it for himself. She travels east to get a bacteriophage.

Two of the three spikes in my body have disappeared and I have to focus on my education now, which makes it very difficult because it takes a lot of time. Maximilian Schmitt, 19, a student from Würzburg

The spin is still there. Maximilian's odyssey continues. The Finnish researcher has learned about Maximilian's case on the Internet, offering help. Will he find the real killer germ? The band is waiting.

The EU authorization procedure has been set up only on antibiotics

Why did not patients like Maximilian Schmitt help in Germany? Researchers from the phage know the nauseating answer: EU approval procedures are only for antibiotics. They are produced millions of times and always have to be the same for all people.

Bacteriophages have a different effect. They are developed in the patient and therefore can be used individually. Therefore bacteriophages are insignificant. Experts such as Stuttgart microbiologist Wolfgang Beyer demand that EU law be adjusted here.

"We can not wait for research results for four to five years because people die today and tomorrow and every day." "For those patients, we need authorization procedure for bacteriophage use, individually personalized in these patients. There is currently no EU registration procedure with one exception – and this is Belgium. Wolfgang Beyer, microbiologist, University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim

In Belgium, the legal solution: individual cocktails are available

Patrick Soentjens at the Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels has a key job. As a physician and officer, the entire application of bacteriophages is monitored: therapy, diagnosis, production and treatment, all under one roof.

Belgium has found a legal solution by combining permitted procedures with case-by-case medicine. Active pharmaceuticals are produced, strictly in line with EU standards. He gets a pharmacist who will combine certain cocktail fags. They differ depending on the patient, but with strictly certified ingredients. The legal trick of the state, which Patric Soentjens and his Belgian counterparts provide legal security in treating the phage.

Belgian model as a model for the whole EU?

Can the Belgian model be a wake-up call for the EU Commission, which could even study that question at its own threshold in Brussels? European Representative Karin Kadenbach, a Social Democrat and antimicrobial resistance expert, is still skeptical. The Belgian way for her does not go far enough. "We really need a highly commissioned commission to work on these issues and do it as soon as possible", this is their expectation before the new Commission.

Implementation across Europe would be an important task for EMA European Health Organizations. What about Germany? The Federal Ministry of Health expressed itself to the BR quite nonsensical. Therapy in Belgium "is known to the Federal Ministry," they say. It does not help tens of thousands of patients.

For the treatment of bacteriophages abroad

At Maximilian Schmitt, Finnish researchers have become successful. But a bacteriophage cocktail, which can cure it, should now cool down in Würzburg. The district government calls. The legal situation does not produce legal import.

Now a 19-year-old has to go to Helsinki for treatment. Medical tourism instead of legal security.