Doctors and researchers put their tail in the window: If we continue to treat antibiotics so carelessly, this wonder weapon against bacterial infections is muted. Antibiotic resistance is on the rise and doctors are no longer able to cope with resistant hospital germs. The new hope is to bring phage therapy. "Phages can destroy bacteria very effectively and resort to a mechanism of action that acts independently of antibiotic resistance," says Prof. Wippermann, chief physician of the large German clinic and co-founder of PhagoMed. The aim of the company, which was founded in Vienna in November 2017, is to further develop this therapeutic approach in terms of strict regulations for the approval of standard therapies, in which eleven scientists conduct research. "In research and healing already done by myself and colleagues, it has been shown that phages can act where antibiotics fail."
The Austrian company is currently in the process of developing phage drugs for implants-related infections, urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis. What is already working on animal experiments should be tested on humans in 2021 and in 2025 on the market. Scope of development: a total of around € 40 to € 50 million. So far, more than half of the € 5.5 million has already been received from public funds.
Viruses destroy bacteria
Just as phages do, another co-founder of biotechnology, Alexander Belcredi, explains: "Phages are viruses that infect only certain bacterial cells with their DNA, multiply and ultimately destroy the bacteria."
As soon as enough new phages are produced, phages destroy the bacterial cell surface of the bacterium using specially produced enzymes and thus lead to cell mortality. The phages are very specific. Everyone only acts against a specific bacterium, but otherwise does no harm. Planned drugs contain three to four phages.
Viruses, which by the way occur in the billions on and on every human body, work without side effects. Another benefit: They can break down biofilms from bacteria that they can implant on artificial joints. Until now, it has always been necessary to work on this issue and remove the biofilm, as antibiotics cannot harm the bacteria from the biofilm.
Incidentally, phages were used in medicine over a hundred years ago, although the mechanism of action was unknown at the time. In the 1940s, their importance was overshadowed by the widespread use of antibiotics.
Today, they only play a medical role in countries of the former Eastern Bloc, such as Georgia. As a hygienic tool, phages are used in the United States, for example, to protect chicken meat from salmonella.
Combination with antibiotics
Phages could be a real alternative to antibiotics, where chronic infections are involved, as well as a single or limited number of target germs. A combination with antibiotics can be helpful. Antibiotics are superior, for example, when pressure times, when a bacterium is not well known, or when many different bacteria are involved in an infection.
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