Bacteriophages, or simply ''phages'', are naturally occurring viruses that infect and feed on bacteria. They are the most abundant organisms in the Earth''s biosphere and are present in every environment where bacteria is present – even inside the human body.
Phage therapy is the use of phages to cure bacterial infections in human hosts.
"Dr. Dangs Lab and Vitalis Phage Therapy, India''s first phage therapy initiative, have recently joined hands to bring diagnostic bacteriophage sensitivity testing to India. This pioneering initiative will enable people suffering from bacterial infections to get bacteriophage susceptibility testing done locally in India," the laboratory network said in a statement.
This will make it easier for them to access phage therapy offered by the Eliava Phage Therapy Center, associated with the 97-year-old Eliava Institute of Bacteriophages, Microbiology and Virology in Tbilisi, Georgia, it said.
In order to administer phage therapy, it is necessary to first test the patient''s samples from the infected site to establish the sensitivity of the pathogenic bacteria to the phages, to know which phages will be effective in treating the infection.
“In our experience of enabling phage treatment for patients, we realised that samples sent from India to Georgia for phage sensitivity testing would take up to two weeks to reach. This made phage therapy out of reach for patients suffering from acute infections," said Pranav Johri, founder, Vitalis Phage Therapy, the official partner of the Eliava Phage Therapy Center and Eliava Institute in India.
With testing now available locally at Dr. Dangs Lab, patients will be able to get their "culture and phage susceptibility report in a matter of days, making the diagnostic process quicker and more timely for their treatment," he said.
Thousands of individuals worldwide have benefited from phage therapy over the past few years and over the last couple of years, Johri said, adding Vitalis has enabled dozens of patients from India with conditions such as chronic urinary tract infection or UTI, kidney infections, prostatitis, respiratory infections to benefit from phage therapy from the Eliava Phage Therapy Center.
"We are immensely hopeful of the power of phage sensitivity testing and subsequent therapy to help the huge number of people suffering from unresolved bacterial infections," said Arjun Dang, CEO, Dr. Dangs Lab.
The cost of phage susceptibility testing will be Rs 850 and the services, for sample collection will be offered in all major cities pan India, he said.
Though phage therapy was first developed over a hundred years ago, the last century has mainly witnessed treatments for infections with antibiotics.Phage therapy is an alternative approach to treat bacterial infections and it can be used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections, the statement by the lab network said.
Antibiotic resistance or antimicrobial resistance (AMR) due to rampant misuse of antibiotics, will eventually evolve to be a major threat to humanity. This novel initiative will increase accessibility to phage therapy as an extremely effective alternative for treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections, it claimed.
“Local testing of clinical bacterial isolates on susceptibility to therapeutic bacteriophage preparations within a local diagnostic laboratory as opposed to sending isolates to Georgia will significantly speed up the process of phage selection and subsequent phage treatment. Providing this activity locally will help medical staff accelerate their treatment of a patient battling bacterial infections,” Mzia Kutateladze, Director of the Eliava Institute, was quoted as saying in the statement.
"The infrastructure has been created to offer diagnostic testing with Eliava''s phages in India. This will enable to get samples tested at a lab in India, thus cutting down the time taken and costs incurred for phage sensitivity testing," it said.
The test report will be as per Eliava''s guidelines. It will show the bacteria causing the infection, and the standard phage medicines to which those bacteria are sensitive, the statement said. PTI KND