Riding the wave of popularity

4 12 2006

Yesterday there was an article in the Toronto Star about a little something called “phage therapy“, a process, pioneered by the easter europeans, that uses bacteriophage instead of antibiotics to take care of bacterial pathogens. If you ask me it’s a much better process, as it’s a helluva lot cheaper, more effecient, reduces the risk of bacterial resistance (which is becoming such a problem in many hospitals). The problem why this method never took off in N.A. (and it’s been around since ol’ Fleming first discovered the antibiotic properties of some microbe), is because generally a phage cocktail (i.e. a mixture of bacteriophage species, which maximizes the effeciency of the process, due to a larger range of pathogen “types” or strains being targetted) can’t be perfectly defined and thus cannot be patented (ahh, big business. gotta love it). With the amount of clinical testing needed to get a medical treatment widely available, no pharmaceutical in their right-capatalistic mind would go through the testing, just to have another company pick up a vial of the cocktail and grow it up in the lab for cheap, then turn around and market it themselves. But, as the article explains, the growing number of antibiotic-resistant, or “super-strains” of bacterial pathogens out there is going to warrant the use of phage therapy in the future, so phage research, i’m sure, is going to blow up big time in the near-future.

Happy to know my MSc work is linked a bit, and my Phd work is going to ride the wave of interest in phage therapy! I just may become a well-paid scientist after all!!

Aside from this, the best part about writing is the soul-crushing “advice” you get from your supervisor. “hey, what’d you think about the intro i gave you?”  “well…you have fine sentence structure…”

hmm. thanks…

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8 responses

5 12 2006
Canadian Matt

damn you sound like a nerd all of a sudden. whens your next road trip with that crazy band of yours? you gonna come down to toronto one day, i’ll bring a wawa back (A WAWA since i’m flying haha, since u know those crazy amricans think any liquid thing is automatically dangerous).

when’s your MSc. presentation? i gotta check it out and ask u stupid questions about capoeira

btw, when u become popular with ur research hook me up with some phage therapy.

6 12 2006
.mathr.

Oi! I dig the dirt in your theoretical pot of flowers. What’s that smell? Daisies? I’m willing to bet.

Stop by, sometime. Fling something smelly.

7 12 2006
mad

i forego the cliche of flowers and go with a simple mixture of soil and essential oils. it requires less maintenence!

i’m glad you enjoy. consider said smelliness, flung!

and to all you’all. please visit mr. mathr’s blog and take a peek. the river is shallow, but full of life.

7 12 2006
.mathr.

haha…

wait… did you just call me shallow?

😉

8 12 2006
mad

haha! damn. you figured me out!

9 12 2006
Malcolm

It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you?

9 12 2006
mad

that grasshopper died a noble death, you bastard.

16 12 2006
Bill Riedel

As the flu shot needle sank into my arm recently I was wondering if we had our public health priorities right. An article I had just read (Public Health says vaccine best defence against flu) pointed out that” every year between 500 and 1,500 Canadians, mainly seniors, die from flu-related complications.” On the other hand a second article mentioned that I should get prepared for the bird flu epidemic. To the best of my knowledge not a single Canadian has died yet from the bird flu – yet millions have been spent to be prepared even though even pu7blic health officials now say “the risk that particular virus poses to humans may be overblown” (City pandemic preparedness campaign asks: Are you ready?) Compare this to the situation with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so called superbugs:
Never before has the superbug crisis been described so eloquently in so few words than in a recent article entited, “Hospital scourge: Millions of patients are infected by bacteria, and may die”, which appeared in the Globe and Mail, Sept. 30, 2006; but now that the problem has been described we need solutions!

The absurdity of the superbug crisis consists of the fact that it can be demonstrated that we had technology, namely bacteriophage therapy, long before we created the antibiotic-resistance superbug crisis through massive abuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials. Additionally many politicians, bureaucrats, scientists and members of the public health community are or should be well informed about phage therapy which can cure many superbug infections. In spite of a voluminous literature attesting to the scientific validity and medical effectiveness of phage therapy (see http://www.phage.org and find phage therapy references), there are still phage therapy deniers who would resist the careful deployment of these weapons of mass-destruction for specific pathogens in the war with superbugs. Superbugs are winning most battles with an estimated 17 million human casualties due to microbial infections worldwide annually ( 17 million is roughly half the population of Canada or California; the total casualties of WW II are estimated to have been 55 million in about 6 years – superbugs kill more people every 4 years) . Many of these infections are acquired by patients after entering hospitals for unrelated illnesses, making hospitals significant killing fields in the war with superbugs. In Canada as many as 30 patients are dying of such infections daily and some say that an equal number of amputations are also performed to stop such infections. We have known the magnitude of the problem at least since the early 1970’s when Ottawa bacteriologist Dr. J.C. N. Westwood was on the conference and media circuit with essentially the same message that is reflected in current papers and news reports ( J.C.N. Westwood, Current National Patterns – Canada, Proceedings of the International Conference on Nosocomial Infections, Center for Disease Control, Aug. 3-6, 1970, 17). Nothing has significantly changed unless we consider the worsening of the problem as success!

What is Phage Therapy? Prior to the discovery and widespread use of antibiotics, bacterial infections were treated worldwide by the administration of bacteriophages. Bacteriophages or phages are highly specific viruses that invade bacterial cells and, in the case of lytic phages, disrupt bacterial metabolism and cause the bacterium to die. Interestingly it was the French-Canadian microbiologist, Felix d’Herelle, while working at the Institute Pasteur in Paris in 1917 who is credited with discovering and promoting phage therapy. While the use of phage therapy was discontinued in the West soon after the discovery of antibiotics they continued to be utilized in Eastern Europe and today many infections untreatable with antibiotics can be treated in clinics in Georgia (Europe) and Poland. Once one accepts the fact that it requires microscopes to see the world of bacteria and bacteriophages, phage therapy may be compared to any biological control methodology and can conceptually be described as: What a cat is to a mouse the right bacteriophage is to a specific bacterium or superbug. Phage therapy has been going on in nature as a balancing force in the evolution of microbes for a long time. Medical phage therapy is simply the intervention of humans to ensure that the balance is in favour of bacteriophages over susceptible bacterial pathogens! While there is considerable expertise on phage therapy in Canada at the research level as can be substantiated by googling phage therapy (“pages from Canada” only), medical phage therapy is not currently approved or practised in Canada; however, according to a letter signed by the former federal health minister phage therapy can be made available legally to Canadian patients under the Special Access Program of our Food & Drugs Act! A discussion of phage therapy is currently very timely, not only because too many Canadians are dying of superbug infections; but also because of the recent release of the Canadian film: Killer Cure: The Amazing Adventures of Bacteriophage and the June 2006 release of the English book by Thomas Haeusler entitled Viruses vs. Superbugs, a solution to the antibiotics crisis? ( see http://www.bacteriophagetherapy.info ) – both are available at Ottawa libraries. Additionally, the record of an excellent question-and-answer session with Dr. Roger Johnson of the Public Health Agency of Canada can be found at http://meristem.com/topstories/ts06_08.html . Further, the phage therapy file has dramatically changed during the last few weeks because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the US food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of a bacteriophage preparation on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products as an antimicrobial agent against Listeria monocytogenes (see http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/02f-0316-nfr0001.pdf ). This excellent submission evaluation changes the scientific validity of phage therapy from Eastern European science, which sadly too many of us Westerners dismiss with hubris and bias as not credible, to approved and supported by the all-knowing and all-seeing FDA at least for ready-to-eat meats. Otherwise the US situation is similar to the Canadian situation – much expertise at the research level but little human treatment (there are rumours of a limited human trail being done at present).

Superbugs are everybody’s business because superbugs make everybody their business and North Americans should study the above references because sooner or later everybody will be faced with an infection or know a relative or friend who will be suffering or dying with one. Withholding such treatment from patients when antibiotics are failing ought to be a crime; however, those who have the money and time to travel when faced with an infection where antibiotics are failing may be able to get phage therapy treatment in Georgia ( http://www.phagetherapycenter.com ) or Poland – http://www.aite.wroclaw.pl/phages/phages.html . What is even more surprising that an international phage therapy company would probably be willing and able to set up a phage therapy clinic in Canada if the right regulatory climate existed. Since January 1, 2000 as many 82,000 Canadians may have died of such bacterial infections and there is not even a memorial for them. Would it not be nice if the Canadian governments got together and funded the Felix d’Herelle Center for Phage Therapy to provide the phage therapy treatment option to patients when antibiotics fail and we have nothing left to offer them? Meanwhile some people are starting to wear a blue ribbon as a memorial to superbug victims!! Please join us.

Compliments of the Season!

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