A model of bacteriophage.
The main cause of this resistance is the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, which kills some bacteria but allows others to mutate and develop defense mechanisms.
A growing number of infections, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and salmonella, are becoming harder to treat as antibiotics are less effective against superbugs resistant.
By some estimates, 70% of all antibiotics used worldwide are used in animals. Until recently, regulations allowed Canadian producers to give antibiotics to livestock and poultry as a preventative measure. These antibiotics are found in groundwater and in animal meat.
After studying the use of bacteriophages in humans, Steven Theriault and his team quickly extended their work to the agricultural sphere.
They developed and tested a product called FarmPhage, a mixture of viruses that kills E. coli and salmonella bacteria in chickens. In trials conducted at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, the survival rate of chickens infected with E. coli and having received the product was 92%, compared to 8% for untreated birds.
The team of scientists believe the product could also be suitable to treat people suffering from infections caused by drug-resistant superbugs.
Steven Theriault has submitted FarmPhage for approval in the United States and hopes to begin selling in that market in 2024. He is also interested in the European Union and Australia, which are currently developing their regulatory frameworks.
FarmPhage was, however, not submitted to Health Canada, because existing drug regulations are, according to Mr. Theriault, adapted to chemical drugs, and not to products such as bacteriophages, so it is impossible to meet all requirements.
This situation is also a concern for other Canadian biotechnology companies, according to Lauren Carde, vice-president of operations and regulatory affairs at Paul Dick and Associates, an animal health consulting firm based in Guelph, Ontario.
Our regulatory system is set up so that if you have a product that has an antimicrobial mode of action or that has therapeutic claims […] you enter the category of drugs, she explains.
Health Canada indicates that bacteriophages may be regulated specifically based on their use.
The organization says it works closely with other regulators, including in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
However, it is not aware of any approval for the use of bacteriophages for the prevention or treatment of any disease or disorder in animals in a trusted regulatory jurisdiction.
Over the past several years, Health Canada has worked with producer associations and veterinary groups to understand their needs for veterinary products and to jointly find innovative and flexible ways to introduce products into the Canadian market. indicates the declaration.
Health Canada specifies that it has not received any application for approval of FarmPhage or other bacteriophage product intended for animal use. p>
The FarmPhage product was added to the water of these chicks in Bangladesh in May 2023.
Given the pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics, Lauren Carde says Canada needs to change its rules to allow the use of bacteriophages as non-drug products.
There needs to be room for agility, flexibility and the role of catalyst for the introduction of these products, she says.
These technological advances are closely monitored by Canadian producers.
We're very familiar with the product and, in fact, we've helped Cytophage collect samples from farms and participated in testing, says Wayne Hiltz, executive director of the Manitoba Chicken Growers' Association.
Once the technology has been approved, I think there will be many possibilities for using this technology in our sector, believes- he.
With information from Karen Pauls