Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How long have we known that phage therapy will cure superbug infections?

PM’s visit to Poland, lost opportunity for Canadians suffering and dying from superbug infections?

In an article by Lisa Jutras, (2014) Viral Agent - A forgotten weapon for the post-antibiotic era, The Walrus, July/Aug., p. 21 - http://thewalrus.ca/viral-agent/ it is noted: “In Canada, an estimated twenty-two patients die every day from hospital-acquired infections, while many more are left with chronic illnesses that destroy their quality of life”. The article goes on to detail that we have known how to treat some, perhaps even most, antibiotic-resistant superbug infections since before antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections and also describes that it was the French-Canadian microbiologist, Felix d’Herelle, working at the Pasteur Institute, in 1917 who coined the name bacteriophage and experimented with the possibility of phage therapy – he subsequently worked all over world, including Russia, Tbilisi, Georgia, where his efforts survive to this day in the form of a Phage Therapy Center (http://www.phagetherapycenter.com ) that treats patients from all over the world (For his work, d’Herelle was made a laureate of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame - http://cdnmedhall.org/dr-f%C3%A9lix-d%E2%80%99h%C3%A9relle ). Jutra’s article concludes with the discouraging note: “For now, sick Canadians must rely on expensive international travel to find relief. It is an irony to which wary socialist Félix d’Herelle would have been exquisitely attuned”. One of these destinations where sick Canadians could travel to for treatments for superbug infections is in Poland – specifically it is the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Polish Academy of Sciences, http://www.iitd.pan.wroc.pl/en/Phages . Considering our close relationship with Poland, I believe the PM could have achieved a cooperation agreement with Poland to provide assistance to Canada to establish 'The Superbug Victim Felix d'Herelle Memorial Center for Experimental and Compassionate Phage Therapy' to provide phage therapy to Canadian patients when antibiotics fail or when patients are allergic to antibiotics. This would have been a rather timely action considering the very recent publication of an article in Future Microbiology, vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 685-688, http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/fmb.15.28 entitled Re-establishing a place for phage therapy in Western medicine. While phage therapy is not currently "approved" in Canada, that does not mean it can not be used since there are both national (special access program) and international regulatory provisions for legal use - example: Declaration of Helsinki, http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm: In the treatment of a patient, where proven prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic methods do not exist or have been ineffective, the physician, with informed consent from the patient, must be free to use unproven or new prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic measures, if in the physician's judgement it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering. Where possible, these measures should be made the object of research, designed to evaluate their safety and efficacy. In all cases, new information should be recorded and, where appropriate, published. The other relevant guidelines of this Declaration should be followed. Lytic phages love bacteria, including superbugs, to death!