Described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “One of the most serious threats to global health, food security and development”, will antibiotic resistance be resolved with phage therapy, which consists of using viruses to fight infections? This is the ambition of the PHAG-ONE project, piloted by the Hospices Civils de Lyon (HCL), officially launched on Wednesday September 8, with the first meeting of scientific and university partners (Claude-Bernard-Lyon-I University, International Center of research in infectious diseases, CEA of Grenoble, Inserm and CNRS of Montpellier, Paris-Saclay, Versailles-Saint-Quentin). They are engaged in a collective work aimed at the selection and stable production of phages, these bacteria-killing viruses.
With a budget of 2.5 million euros, the Lyon project is one of eleven projects selected by the National Research Agency (ANR), as part of the call for projects called “Antibioresistance: understand, innovate , to act “. “The PHAG-ONE project aims to isolate, test, purify and produce several species of phages, by doubling this biological work with a normative study. We want to constitute a production platform, and we give the possibility of releasing the first pharmaceutical batches within two years ”, explains Professor Frédéric Laurent, head of the bacteriology department and coordinator of the Institute of infectious agents of HCL.
Still used in Eastern Europe
Discovered over a hundred years ago, phages – viruses capable of targeting, infecting and destroying bacteria – were abandoned after the advent of antibiotics, synthetic drugs that were simpler to produce and to standardize. Marginal, the use of bacteriophages – most often applied to the skin, more rarely in oral solution – has never completely disappeared from the hospital landscape in the countries of the former Eastern bloc, in particular for patients with the disease. infections that cannot be cured with antibiotics.
“Ten years ago, we encountered one antibiotic-resistant infection in the hospital every month, today it is once or twice a day”, estimates Professor Laurent.
While antibiotic resistance gives phages a second chance, caution should be exercised with regard to therapy based on living organisms, which is complicated to implement, as the disappointing results of the European Phagoburn project have shown. in 2018. It involved applying phages in external compresses, difficult to store, on infected burns. The Lyon project aims to design injectable solutions that are stable and more easily stored, manufactured according to a strictly controlled process.
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In Lyon, viruses will be produced to fight against bacteria resistant to antibiotics