Bacteriophages were first used
therapeutically in humans in 1919 (shortly after their
discovery), to treat severe cases of bacterial dysentery in four
children in Paris, France. All of the treated children recovered
from what otherwise could have been a fatal infection. The study
was conducted in close collaboration with Felix d’Herelle, one
of the discoverers of bacteriophages. However, it was not
published in the scientific literature until several years later1. Therefore, the first published report about using bacteriophages to treat human infections dates to 1921, when
Richard Bruynoghe and Joseph Maisin published a short paper
describing the successful use of bacteriophages to treat
staphylococcal skin disease in six patients2. Since that time,
phages have been used to treat bacterial infections of humans in
a variety of clinical settings. Phages have been administered to
- Orally, in tablet and liquid formulations
- Locally (skin, eye, ear, nasal mucosa, etc.), in tampons,
rinses and creams
- As aerosols and intrapleural injections
There have been no reports of serious complications
associated with the use of phages in such settings 1,3.
Therapeutic phage preparations also were produced in the
United States during the 1930s and 40s, by well-known
pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, E. R. Squibb and
Sons, and Swan-Myers (a division of Abbott Laboratories).
However, the advent of antibiotics caused interest in phage
therapy to decline in the West, and therapeutic phage
applications were all but abandoned in the United States,
Western Europe and the rest of the developed world. At the same
time, therapeutic phage applications continued in the former
Soviet Union (FSU) and many Eastern European countries, where
therapeutic phage preparations are currently available for sale
in pharmacies and specialized research centers and clinics.
The rapid and alarming emergence of antibiotic-resistant
“superbugs” has rekindled interest in phage therapy in the West.
Indeed, the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant
bacterial pathogens may have very serious public health
ramifications, and it may seriously impact the way medicine is
practiced today in much of the world. The problem was emphasized
recently in a report by a special Task Force co-chaired by the
CDC, FDA and NIH, which stated that “the world may soon be faced
with previously treatable diseases that have again become
untreatable, as in the pre-antibiotic era.” Intralytix believes
that phage therapy can be a potent tool for dealing with
bacterial infections of humans, and that phage therapy will help
to reduce problems caused by the emergence of
antibiotic-resistant bacteria (i.e., bacteria that are
untreatable with currently available antibiotics). In many
cases, it may be the only safe and effective approach currently
available for saving a patient’s life.
Intralytix currently has two human therapeutic
in various stages of development, that will address various
urgent and unmet medical needs. One of Intralytix’s prototype phage
preparations for treating infected wounds was successfully used during the
Phase I human clinical trial in Lubbock, Texas4. However, that product is not yet available for clinical applications. Also, while Intralytix has strategic plans to develop several additional products for human therapeutics, we do not currently produce any phage-based commercial preparations for human therapy. For further information on new therapies in clinical trials (including phage therapy trials) from various organizations, please visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
1. Sulakvelidze, A., Alavidze,
Z., and Morris, J. G., Jr., Bacteriophage therapy, Antimicrob
Agents Chemother 45 (3), 649-659, 2001.
2. Bruynoghe, R. and Maisin, J., Essais de
thérapeutique au moyen du bactériophage du Staphylocoque, J
Compt Rend Soc Biol 85, 1120-1121, 1921.
3. Alisky, J., Iczkowski, K., Rapoport, A., and
Troitsky, N., Bacteriophages show promise as antimicrobial
agents, J Infect 36 (1), 5-15, 1998.
4. Wolcott, R., Rhoads, D., Kuskowski, M., Ward, L.,
and Sulakvelidze, A., Bacteriophage therapy of venous leg ulcers
in humans: results of a Phase I safety trial, Journal of Wound
Care 18 (6), 237-243, 2009.