Phage application – viruses as bacteria eaters

Phage therapy utilizes the natural properties of bacteriophages to combat harmful bacteria. A phage or bacteriophage is nothing other than a natural bacteria eater.

In order to multiply and do their work, the viruses first look for a host cell. They then inject their DNA directly into the bacterium.

The affected bacterium then produces new phages until it is full and bursts. Strictly speaking, the phages do not eat the bacterium. They turn it into a veritable phage factory that works at full speed until it collapses.

This natural application in the fight against bacteria has been researched in Georgia for a good hundred years. In contrast to many Western countries, it is also used therapeutically there.

However, the benefits of phage therapy are increasingly being recognized and used again in Europe – also for skin irritations. The naturally occurring phages are used to treat acne, neurodermatitis and rosacea.

Phage therapy - viruses as bacteria eaters
The modern bacteria eaters from Georgia

The bacteria eaters from Georgia

Georgia is considered a pioneer in phage therapy. The first microbacteriology laboratory was founded in the capital Tbilisi in 1923 and was dedicated to phage research, among other things.

Named after its founder Georgi Eliava, the laboratory in the former Soviet republic now exists as an institute. It is regarded worldwide as the first address for phage therapy.

The effects of phage therapy have been known in medical circles since the 1920s.

However, with the breakthrough of pharmaceutically produced antibiotics, knowledge and use soon faded into the background.

As soon as the first antibiotics became available in Europe and the USA, phage therapy became uninteresting in the West. The available antibiotics were simply too good and too easily available.

In Georgia and throughout the Soviet Union, however, it was difficult to obtain antibiotics during the Cold War.

Phage therapy was therefore the best – if not the only – way to treat infectious diseases. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Eliava Institute now has one of the world’s largest bacteriophage collections.

Patients from all over the world come here for treatment when conventional antibiotic therapy is no longer effective. When standard mixtures no longer help, Phage Technology from Georgia comes into play.

As has been the case for decades, phage cocktails are individually tailored to each patient according to the doctor’s instructions.

Application of phage therapy

It is undisputed that treatment with bacteriophages can help. However, in most EU countries, the use of bacteriophages is not permitted or only permitted on an individual application basis in selected patients in accordance with Article 37 of the Helsinki Declaration.

Hardly any doctor knows them and no pharmacy has them in stock. These are just some of the reasons why so many affected patients travel to Tbilisi and undergo phage therapy in the Georgian capital at their own expense.

However, the pressure to act due to multi-resistant germs, multi-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is constantly increasing. In 2018, Belgium became the first country in the EU to create national legal certainty for phage therapy.

Here, phage therapy is permitted for various infectious diseases with orally ingested or injected phages and has been possible at the Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels since 2016.

As in Georgia, a pharmacist prepares the cocktail, followed by quality control by a laboratory.

Slowly but surely, things are moving forward and two possible variants of phage therapy are crystallizing:

  • Fixed cocktails of several phages for a specific indication
  • a personalized approach in which different phages are selected for each patient

The Phage4Cure project is also fighting to establish bacteriophage as a drug against bacterial infections.

Phage4Cure is a cooperation between:

Application of phage therapy
Bacteriophages and acne

Bacteriophages and acne

Acne often occurs during puberty and makes it difficult for many young people to look in the mirror. Acne is often difficult to treat and persists into young adulthood.

At this stage of life in particular, self-esteem can suffer greatly from the visible consequences of acne.

But there is hope. As early as 2013, a large-scale clinical study in the United States tested the effect of eleven bacteriophage strains on adolescents with acne.

The researchers have discovered this: The viruses produce the enzyme endolysin, which destroys the cell walls of the bacteria in question, but does not affect other bacteria. 1

With this knowledge, a new, therapy-accompanying approach is now possible: it uses bacteriophages as a natural weapon against acne and Staphylococcus aureus. In this application, the bacteriophages, which occur naturally on the skin, are applied in increased concentrations in the form of a spray.

This makes it easy to tackle the bacteria that cause increased sebum production.

The balance of the skin flora is promoted so that you will soon notice a reduction in skin irritation and redness – without any side effects.

Phages for rosacea

The chronic skin disease rosacea mainly affects fair-skinned people. It is characterized by redness of the otherwise pale skin, as well as dilated veins, blisters or pustules on the face.

There is burning, itching and dryness in the affected areas. Pustules can also form. Thickening of the skin and growths can occur, particularly in the nose area.

While the causes of rosacea are not yet fully understood, it is known that factors such as alcohol consumption, stress, heat and cold, various mites and bacteria, but also spicy foods have a favorable effect.

The use of phages can strengthen the skin flora and reduce the symptoms of rosacea with a regeneration process of the skin.

Phages and rosacea
Phages for neurodermatitis

Phages for neurodermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is now one of the most common chronic inflammatory skin diseases.

It is extremely unpleasant – both visually and in terms of its symptoms, which range from dry, flaky skin to severe itching and weeping eczema.

Not only the symptoms, but also the triggers can be very different. There are various factors that lead to atopic dermatitis.

They range from the textiles worn to the room and air temperature, the hygiene and cosmetic products used and stress.

General allergy triggers can also promote the development of atopic dermatitis. This disrupts the skin flora, allowing bacteria to multiply and lead to the effects described.

The application of bacteriophages can restore the balance of the skin flora. Phages are applied in the form of a spray, which can be used as an adjuvant therapy for neurodermatitis in order to restore the skin flora.

  1. 1.
    Dr. Rohde C, Prof. Dr. Witzenrath M, Dr. Hüser A. Bacteriophages as drugs in the fight against infections. Fraunhofer ITEM. Accessed April 6, 2021.
20 Bewertungen