A collaboration of scientists are in the advanced stages of developing a bacteriophage, a type of virus to combat a serious hospital acquired infection caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile). Scientists with AmpliPhi BioSciences Corporation have entered a licencing agreement with UK-based University of Leicester to develop bacteriophage viruses to target the infectious agent C. difficile.
C. difficile causes a serious diarrhoeal disease in humans and many strains have become increasingly resistant to antibiotic therapy evolving into “superbugs”. C. difficile is one of the most prevalent species of bacteria found in hospital acquired infections. The US Center for Disease Control notes its September 2013 report on antibiotic resistance, that C. difficile is as an urgent threat, causing 250,000 infections in the US every year and costing $1 billion a year in excess medical costs. Philip J. Young, CEO of AmpliPhi said "C. difficile causes at least 14,000 deaths a year in the US alone.”
Bacteriophages are viruses that can infect and destroy bacteria. Although bacteriophages have been used in both clinical applications and for genetic manipulation of bacterial species in laboratories for over 100 years they are only recently being commercially developed for therapeutic purposes. Current studies using bacteriophage in a human colon model of C. difficile infection have shown a significant reduction in bacterial load in addition to a decline of the toxin produced by the bacteria. The bacteriophage is a beacon of hope for new therapies in the grim face of emerging antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.