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Phages and phage lysins in nature

 

Phages are the most abundant biological entity on earth. Approximately 10³¹ populate our planet and they outnumber bacteria 10:1. Phages hunt, infect and kill bacteria and are extremely precise – typically only capable of infecting a small number of bacterial strains.

 

Phages are bactericidal by nature and have the potential to be a highly innovative novel anti-bacterial that work where antibiotics fail. Their precision allows the precise targeting of individual bacterial strains within the beneficial microbiomes.

 

Many phages also encode a protein called a lysin. The phage needs the lysin in the last step of its replication cycle to cleave the bacterial cell wall. This kills the bacteria.

 

Lysins can also cleave the cell wall from the outside. This makes them a novel class of anti-bacterials with the potential to revolutionize the treatment of bacterial infections.

See below for a schematic representation of how phages and their lysins work.

Schematic representation of phages' and lysins' activity

Phage infection

Phages hunt for a specific bacteria to infect

Phage assembly

Phages hijack the bacteria to produce new phage particles

Lysin assembly

Phages force the bacteria to assemble cell wall lysins

Cell destruction

Lysins cleave the cell wall, the new phage particles escape

Phages and phage lysins as pharmaceuticals

The potential of phages and lysins as novel anti-bacterials have been well recognized over the past decades. However, phages and phage lysins found in nature typically have a number of drawbacks:

  • Limited host range

  • Limited potency & fast resistance formation

  • Limited bio-availability

  • Limited stability
     

PhagoMed discovers and optimizes wild-type phages to turn them into drug-grade ε²Phages® as well as discovers and optimizes wild-type phage lysins to turn them into drug-grade ε²Lysins.

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TED Talk on phages

    Watch PhagoMed CEO Alexander Belcredi talk about the history of phages, their biology and why phages can be a solution for the antibiotics crisis. 

Phages in nature

The discovery of phages in 1917

History of phage therapy

Lysins as novel anti-bacterials

For more information on phages and lysins in general, the following publications are useful starting points:

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