Summary: The Magistral Phage –A Belgian initiative
As antimicrobial resistance continues to grow, spread and kill in the environment, scientists, aside from looking for new antibiotics, are also studying a well-known group of organisms and their possible participation in our fight against AMR: viruses. In these COVID-19 times viruses may have a negative connotation but, unlike COVID or the flu, these one does not infect humans. They are specific to bacteria and are called bacteriophages – “bacteria eaters” –and most commonly referred to as ‘phages. Phages are considered crucial and sustainable element in the fight against AMR. Phages evolved jointly with bacteria under a parasite-host system of interaction. The long co-evolution history made each phage deeply specialized to a bacteria strain. This specificity means that we need to identify which bacterium is responsible for the infection if we want to use phages efficiently. Bacteria, just like with antibiotics, can grow resistance against phages but, unlike antibiotics, phages can then mutate to infect the resistant bacteria. It has led to an unbelievable continuous “arms race of co-evolving infectivity and defense mechanism”. In 2016, the Belgian Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health recognized the lack of legislation around the use of phages in the medical domain and that more research on phages is needed while giving the possibility to patients to have access to efficient treatments. Belgium therefore has granted a special accreditation to a short-list of quality control laboratories to certify the safety of medical preparations containing “non-authorized ingredients”. As too many phages naturally occur to authorize them all juridically, it was the most suitable alternative. In conclusion, because of this new framework, Belgian researchers hope that it is only a matter of time before the legislative context and clinicals results permit the phage therapy to regain its justified place as an established antibacterial tool. For further legislative details, please read the source article.
EU-wide pharmacopeia recognition of ‘the Belgian Model’ will allow the further and necessary development of phage technology and phages in the EU.
Source: Sciensano, the full article on which this summary is based, was originally published on 6 February 2018, in the journal “Viruses”