Bacteriophages (Greek for ‘eaters of bacteria’) are the most abundant life forms on Earth, with an estimated ten thousand billion billion billion (1031) bacteriophages inhabiting water, plants, sewage and the digestive tract of species ranging from mosquitos to fish to humans. A bacteriophage rapidly kills its bacterial host, replicating itself in the process, thereby creating an escalating swarm that continues to destroy until the host is eliminated.

Characteristics of bacteriophages

Bacteriophages are about 100 times smaller than bacteria. While they come in different sizes and shapes bacteriophages mostly share the same basic characteristics.

bacteriophage_components.jpgA phage’s head structure consists of one or more proteins, which protectively contain its core genetic material. Most phages also have a tail attached to their heads, which delivers the genetic material once the phage has either attached itself to or entered the bacterial host cell. Fibers, also known as legs, radiate outward from the tail to aid in binding to the surface of the target bacteria.

History of Therapeutic and Commercial Use

Bacteriophages were commonly used prior to the advent of antibiotics in 1940. However, antibiotic discovery led directly to the decline in phage use. Phages are a commonly used treatment in Eastern Europe, however, they have been under-utilized in other locations, thereby allowing bacteria to develop antibiotic-resistant defense mechanisms.

Meanwhile, bacteriophages have continued to enjoy widespread commercial use, mainly in killing foodborne pathogens. AmpliPhi’s approach is to develop new bacteriophage-based therapeutics and progress these products through existing regulatory pathways. We will develop medicines that meet the highest regulatory standards, and that provide an effective and efficient means of killing bacterial infections – especially those that have proven resistant to antibiotics.