Quadram Institute scientist Dr Evelien Adriaenssens has given written evidence to a House of Commons select committee on the use of bacteriophages to help tackle the global health challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The House of Commons Science and Technology select committee issued a call for evidence on bacteriophages (also called phages) late last year. The select committee inquiry was influenced by concerns that antibiotic resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health and bacteriophages – viruses which can kill harmful bacteria but not harm humans could be alternative antimicrobials.
At the level of the gut microbiome, researchers at the Quadram Institute on the Norwich Research Park are investigating what constitutes a healthy virome in early and late life, and how the bacteriophages in the virome interact with our body.
Norwich-based scientists are investigating how prophages (phages that have integrated their genomes into the chromosome of the bacteria) contribute to diversification and adaptation to the gut. Dr Adriaenssens’ group at the Quadram Institute has also developed a large biobank of bacteriophages infecting pathogenic bacteria that they are investigating for their potential as biocontrol agents.
Dr Adriaenssens’s Quadram Institute submission to the Science and Technology select committee set out that both naturally occurring and engineered bacteriophages offer potential for new antimicrobial treatments but NHS clinical research has been hampered by a lack of awareness of phage therapy among clinicians, the limited amount of research taking place in the UK, and that there are opportunities for the UK to regulate and innovate around the development of engineered phages.
Research group leader Dr Evelien Adriaenssens said: “Phages are often underexplored but they are major players in the establishment and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome. As viruses of bacteria, they affect all bacteria in the human microbiome and they can be used to safely target some bacterial infections.
“I was pleased to provide evidence to the Science and Technology select committee as research into bacteriophages is on the rise globally. Bacteriophage research for clinical applications is more advanced in parts of Europe but there is a lot of knowledge in the UK with real opportunities to push ahead in this field and I hope our evidence helps inform Government decisions to support research in this field.”