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J Mol Genet Med. 2012;6:279-86. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

The role of regulated clinical trials in the development of bacteriophage therapeutics.

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AmpliPhi Biosciences Corp, Colworth Science Park, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, MK44 1LQ, UK.


Antibiotic resistance is now recognized as a major, global threat to human health and the need for the development of novel antibacterial therapies has become urgent. Lytic bacteriophages (phages) targeting individual bacterial pathogens have therapeutic potential as an alternative or adjunct to antibiotic use. Bacteriophage therapy has been used for decades, but clinical trials in this field are rare, leaving many questions unanswered as to its effectiveness for many infectious diseases. As a consequence bacteriophage therapy is not used or accepted in most parts of the world. The increasing need for new antimicrobial therapies is driving the development of bacteriophage therapies for a number of diseases but these require the successful completion of large-scale clinical trials in accordance with US FDA or European EMA guidelines. Bacteriophages are considered as biological agents by regulatory authorities and they are managed by biological medicinal products guidelines for European trials and guidelines of the division of vaccines and related product applications in the USA. Bacteriophage therapy is typically an 'active' treatment requiring multiplication in the bacterial host and therefore the factors that govern its success are different from those of conventional antibiotics. From the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic points of view, time of treatment, dosage depending on the site of infection and the composition of the bacteriophage formulation (single vs multiple strains) need careful consideration when designing clinical trials. Scientific evidence regarding inflammatory effects, potential for gene transfer and phage resistance, need to be evaluated through such trials. However purity, stability and sterility of preparations for human use can be addressed through Good Manufacturing Practises to reduce many potential safety concerns. In this review we discuss the potential for the development of bacteriophage therapy in the context of critical aspects of modern, regulated clinical trials.


Bacteriophage; active therapy; clinical trials; efficacy; regulatory issues; safety


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