Interim report of the DSMZ laboratory

The first stage „selection of phages“ within the joint project „Phage4Cure“ consists of the targeted search for bacteriophages, their clonal purification, characterization, comparison, propagation and appropriation for further pharmaceutical development. These steps form the essential phage biology in the initial part of the project. Aim of this joint project is to prepare a variety of phages, that complement one another in terms of their host spectrum; as antiinfective agents against the multiresistant bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Electron-microscopical shot of pseudomonads with docked bacteriophages. Copyright M. Rohde, HZI

During this process a great variety of Pseudomonas phages will be tested for their effectiveness against a broad spectrum of Pseudomonas strains. These bacterial strains were isolated from a variety of patients in international clinics. Phages are now met with the challenge to win the fight against multiresistant bacteria after the failure of antibiotics. The most difficult aspect of phage biology is the physicochemical receptor recognition of phages when coming into contact with bacterial surfaces. The effectiveness of this highly specific ability of each phage to bind with the bacteria ultimately leads to the destruction of the bacteria.

Since the start of the project the screening of phages in the laboratories of Leibniz-Institut DSMZ GmbH has already produced some promising results. Quantitative comparison of phage efficiency, morphology, and genetic make-up have produced evaluation patterns that represent the next milestone for Phage4Cure. This will be the selection of the therapeutically most effective phages for transfer to Fraunhofer ITEM where a production procedure for the growth and purification of the phages will be put into place. Ultimately this reproducible procedure should produce pharmaceutically pure phages that can then be used in the next steps of the project.

Media tip

In the evening of October 18th there was a documentary on the public TV channel 3sat about the international antibiotic crisis (as part of the series “Unsere Zukunft” / our future). The documentary did a good job in illustrating the global problems with bacterial resistances. It is available at Youtube and the project Phage4Cure is mentioned starting around minute 43:00 (though not referenced by name). (Update March 2018: unfortunately the video has meanwhile been removed)

Project Start

In autumn 2016, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) launched a grant for the development of diagnostics and novel therapies to treat bacterial infections. The joint project “Phage4Cure” of four renowned German research institutions was elected and recently started working. The related press information will be released within the next days.

Dr. Christine Rohde and her team started selecting suitable bacteriophages in her laboratory. These will be tested against around 150 strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa  of clinics  all over Europe – taken from  pulmonary infected patients. The phages which are able to destroy most of those bacteria will be passed on to Dr. Holger Ziehr of Fraunhofer ITEM. He will then develop a drug for inhalation according to international quality standards.