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Texas A&M center confronts antibiotic crisis with potential new bacterial treatment

Food and Drug Administration policies currently subject phage technology to the same criteria as chemical drugs.

"If I give you a chemical drug, that drug is likely to penetrate every tissue of your body your ears, your eyes, your nose, your heart, your kidneys. And a chemical can have a different effect on every organ," Young explained. "And that is why drug testing is so important. I would not advocate lowering the barriers for chemical drugs at all.

"But bacteriophages are not going to go to your eyes, your ears, your brain. And even if they did, they can't do anything," Young said. "They're not capable of even recognizing human cells, and even if they could, the way genes are set up in bacteria phages are completely different than the way they are in humans, so they would not be recognized as genes."

The researcher said part of the center's plan is to educate policy makers so that the rules can be changed for approving phage-based medications for humans without subjecting them to the same type of requirements for chemical pharmaceuticals.

He said phages will likely first be used in veterinary medicine because the barriers for testing for animal use are a lot lower. Veterinary applications could be in use within 10 years, Young believes.

"Once we are successful in veterinary applications, there will be a lot of pressure to get phage therapeutics approved for humans," he said. Dr. Jason Gill, program director, Center for Phage Technology

Young said the center is midway through its five-year development plan and is hiring faculty with phage expertise to conduct research and assist other scientists with projects where phage technology might be introduced. Young expects the phage center to eventually have 15 scientists developing different phages to target different needs.

"This is translational research," he said, "which means taking the basic research and translating it to practical applications as i

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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