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OTTAWA -- GangaGen Life Sciences Inc. (GLSI), a new company focusing on the control of foodborne bacteria that are pathogenic in humans, today unveiled its bacteriophage (phage) technology. The company's phage-based treatment will initially be used to control such bacterial contamination in food animals and animal wastes.
Phages are a family of naturally occurring organisms that target and destroy specific bacteria. In the years before the development of antibiotics, phage preparations were starting to see use in the treatment of human health but were disregarded in the western world as a result of the advent of broad- spectrum antibiotics such as penicillin. Today, bacterial resistance to antibiotics has become a major health concern and phage technology has re-emerged as a viable alternative to antibiotic treatment. A wide variety of antibiotic resistant bacteria dangerous to humans also currently occur in food animals and concern over the use and abuse of antibiotics generally in the agricultural market is becoming as great as it is in human health.
In June 2003, fast food giant McDonald's asked its meat suppliers to reduce their dependence on antibiotics for disease control in animals. McDonald's said it was making the change because of growing evidence that the use of antibiotics in farm animals was creating antibiotic resistance in animals and in the bacteria that cause diseases in humans
GLSI has identified the treatment of dangerous bacteria in food animals as a market in which its phage technology can have a significant impact. Pathogens including certain strains of E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella contribute to millions of cases of human illness in North America every year, and these bacteria typically originate from cattle, poultry or swine.
"GangaGen Life Sciences' phage treatment technology allows us to effectively combat in food animals a variety of bacterial pathogens that can be transmitted to humans and cause severe illness or even death," said Rainer Engelhardt, executive director of GLSI. "We believe this type of treatment to be more effective and safer than antibiotics because phages focus exclusively on targeting and destroying the specific dangerous bacteria and do not affect other bacteria or cells in the animal, resulting in no detrimental side effects. Once the phages eliminate the dangerous bacteria or reduce their levels to a certain low point, the likelihood of infection of people is greatly reduced."
Each year in North America, contamination by the pathogen E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for 60,000 cases of human illness and numerous deaths. The company has targeted the E. coli O157:H7 bacterial infection in cattle as an initial priority for its phage-based treatment. GLSI is also developing further phage products for the treatment of other human pathogens, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria, transferred to humans from food animals.
In addition to phage treatment of food animals, GLSI is targeting the treatment of the same human pathogenic bacteria in the environment, particularly in wastewater and animal waste, including manure used for liquid fertilizer. Dangerous bacteria often enter the human food chain through manure contamination of agricultural crops and of ground water that forms the source of drinking water. GLSI expects to introduce commercially its first phage product by late 2005.
Source: GangaGen Life Sciences Inc.