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Adeline Siew is editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Europe. She is also science editor for Pharmaceutical Technology.
Endolysin technology targets unwanted bacteria, including resistant strains
Micreos, a Dutch biotech company, presented data on the potential use of endolysin as an alternative to antibiotics at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) Medical Innovations Spring Summit on April 18. The concept is based on a treatment inspired by naturally occurring viruses that attack bacteria using enzymes called endolysins.
The growing threat of antimicrobial resistance has created an urgent need for new antibiotics to be developed. Micreos believes that endolysin technology could hold the key to the prevention and treatment of bacterial infections, including those caused by superbugs, such as the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
CEO Mark Offerhaus and Bjorn Herpers, a clinical microbiologist and medical advisor at Micreos, presented the concept of the colonization-infection continuum, and explained how endolysin technology can combat pathogenic bacteria before colonization leads to infection, enabling a novel approach to antibacterial therapy.
Antibiotics are non selective in the bacterial species that they target. Over-prescribing and misuse of antibiotics have caused resistant bacterial strains to emerge. Because bacteria interact with the human body across a spectrum of stages, called the colonization-infection continuum, Micreos argues that antibiotic use should be limited to the infection stage of this continuum.
The company presented new data at the meeting showing that its endolysin, Staphefekt, could kill Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, without inducing bacterial resistance. Endolysins are enzymes produced by phages, the family of viruses that naturally infect and destroy bacteria.
Staphefekt, the first endolysin available for human use, is specific to its target species and does not harm beneficial bacteria, according to Micreos. This novel approach to treating bacterial infections is, therefore, suitable for long-term maintenance therapy. It can be used in the early stages of the colonization-infection continuum in certain patient populations, for example in S. aureus-related skin conditions, such as eczema, acne, and rosacea. Mircreos showed data demonstrating reduced symptoms of inflammation in these conditions.
Staphefekt causes lysis of the bacterial cell wall, targeting highly conserved areas, which is why resistance development against endolysins has not been observed and is not expected. These characteristics have been confirmed in in-vitro and in-vivo studies. Laboratory results have shown that lysis of S. aureus by Staphefekt is specific to S. aureus, efficient, and unlikely to induce resistance.
“Endolysin technology enables us to deal with the bacteria around us in a completely different way, preserving the beneficial species, and the biodiversity of the bacteria on our skin,” said Mark Offerhaus. “This is necessary, and it represents a paradigm shift, allowing for prophylactic and maintenance treatment of bacterial skin diseases at an early stage, alleviating pressure on antibiotics in these indications and preserving antibiotics for when we really need them.”
Bjorn Herpers added that “the results demonstrate the potential this technology has for effective action in the earlier stages of the colonization-infection continuum. The United Kingdom Five-Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018 outlines the need for new strategies for the treatment of bacterial infections, and this could be one of the answers.”