Researchers at Flinders University and Queen Elizabeth Hospital are helping US-based company AmpliPhi Biosciences to produce one of the world’s first bacteriophage (virus)-based therapies for chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS).
AmpliPhi has just announced the start of human trials in the USA of its novel new treatment for Staphylococcus aureus (the common bacterium known as golden staph) infections in CRS patients who have failed to respond to standard antibiotic treatment.
The company says CRS affects more than 10% of the population, or more than 20 million in the US alone where the cost to the health-care and economy through lost productivity is estimated at $480 billion (US$350 billion) a year.
Sometimes caused by infection, the painful blockage of nasal passages can be complicated by resistance to antibiotic treatments even after surgery.
“Our goal is to develop a better treatment for this common condition in order to alleviate tremendous suffering, especially in the estimated 2.6 million CRS patients who fail to respond to standard antibiotic treatment and resort to endoscopic surgery, yet continue to be plagued by the disease,” says AmpliPhi Chief Executive Mr Scott Salka.
“We are grateful to our partners at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide for their dedication and commitment to moving this important research forward,” he says.
Excessive use of antibiotics and mutation of S. aureus has led to drug-resistant strains of golden staph. As more drugs become resistant, the development of alternative anti-infection treatments has become one of the highest priorities of modern medicine and biotechnology.
Bacteriophages or phages are bacterial viruses that invade and destroy bacterial cells.
World health authorities are forecasting that antibiotic resistance may cause more deaths per year than cancer by 2050, with one estimate at 10 million by 2050 compared to eight million for cancer.
Flinders University expert Dr Peter Speck, who specialises in microbiology and virology, says the commencement of Phase 1 clinical trials of the treatment, known as AB-SA01, signals a new era in using virus-based therapies as alternatives to traditional antibiotics.
“Many chronic infections have built resistance to standard antibiotic treatment, and there is potential for emergence of infections for which there is no treatment,” Dr Speck says.
“Phage therapy could be the answer”.
The latest AmphliPhi research was conducted by Dr Speck and QEH specialist Professor Peter-John Wormald.
Dr Speck and other research collaborators are working on other chronic conditions and diseases where phages could be useful, such as in infections of diabetic foot ulcers which can lead to amputations, and in blood-borne infections from golden staph.
“The 30-day mortality rate of the latter type of infection is high, around 30%,” Dr Speck says.
“Intravenous infusion of phages represents a potentially powerful treatment.”
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