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Scientists Explore Alternative to Antibiotics

BATH, United Kingdom & BRISTOL, United Kingdom & SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jul 14, 2011 - A pioneering method for fighting burn infections in children using viruses which ˜eat' disease-causing bacteria has been awarded new funding.

It is hoped the project will develop a burns dressing that will prevent and treat ˜superbugs' that have become resistant to antibiotics – without the use of antibiotics or synthetic antimicrobials.

Scientists from Bristol's Frenchay hospital, the University of Bath and AmpliPhi Biosciences (Pink Sheets: APHB) in Bedfordshire are harnessing bacteriophages - viruses which kill bacteria.

The project has now been awarded a grant of £620,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop a prototype dressing.

Half of all burn injuries occur in children, and most of these are due to scalds from hot tea, coffee and bath water.

Around 10 percent of children who are burnt become infected by disease-causing bacteria which can increase the likelihood of scarring and in some cases even cause death.

In the last year the South West UK Children's Burn Centre at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol has treated more than 800 children for serious burn injuries.

Current treatments for infections use chemical antibiotics but bacteria are rapidly evolving resistance to such drugs.

University of Bath project leader Dr Toby Jenkins said: “The fact that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics is extremely worrying.

“There is an arsenal of drugs at our disposal to treat children with infected burn wounds, but in recent years there have been an increasing number of cases where antibiotics prove ineffective due to bacterial antibiotic resistance. In some cases of infection no antibiotics will be effective in treatment.

“This is a very serious situation and a great deal of innovation is required in the way we treat infections.

“The answer, we believe, lies in a radical new approach to treating infection using natural bacteria-killing viruses.”

Bacteriophages have already been shown to be safe and effective in a recent clinical trial in patients with chronic ear infections [1], carried out by AmpliPhi's wholly-owned subsidiary Biocontrol Ltd.

Professor Mark Enright, AmpliPhi's Research Director, told us, “These phages are naturally occurring and safe as they only ever infect their target species of bacteria.

“They enter their host, reproduce and then burst out and then go on to kill more bacteria. Once all the infection-causing bacteria are consumed the phages simply die.

“Our company is targeting antibiotic resistant bacteria in a number of projects with the aim of producing safe and effective therapies that are subjected to the same type of clinical trials and regulations as new drugs.”

Dr Amber Young, a paediatric burn specialist at the South West UK Children's Burn Centre, a clinical consultant and partner on the project, said: “Of the 37,000 scald accidents in the UK each year, nearly 76 percent are children under five, and 70 percent are caused by hot liquids being split.

“180 children every day are seen in accident and emergency departments with scalds from hot drink spillage alone.

“The terrible truth is that even a very small burn can very quickly become infected, and the child can become seriously ill.

“This funding award is absolutely essential for the research team to develop this product, so it's a really positive step forward in the field of paediatric burn treatment.”

Dr Jenkins aims to introduce phage into burns using advanced dressings, covered with ˜nanocapsules' used to contain and stabilize the phage.

Dr Jenkins said: “This is as part of a wider research interest looking at making very advanced burns dressings which monitor the burn environment and treat infection.

“Ultimately we want to make a prototype dressing which release a phage ˜cocktail' into the wound only if infected, clearing bacteria and allowing healing. The dressing will also change colour indicating infection at very early stages.”

Dr Jenkins' colleague Dr Tom Arnot is developing large scale methods of producing the nanocapsules, and for incorporating the nanocapsules into a gel formulation for topical application to the skin.

Dr Arnot said: “Different burns require different approaches to treatment, so developing a gel for topical skin application in addition to the wound dressing would allow this unique technology to be applied under a wider range of circumstances. We are also looking at the engineering and production aspects of formulating this type of preparation at larger scale.”

The EPSRC funding award will allow the team to develop prototype dressings, undertake microbial analysis and begin preclinical trials, with the aim of commencing clinical trials at the end of the project.


University of Bath

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities. Our Mission is to deliver world class research and teaching, educating our graduates to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence. Our courses are innovative and interdisciplinary and we have an outstanding record of graduate employment. We are ranked in the UK top 15 of universities in The Guardian, Times, Sunday Times and Independent national tables.

The University of Bath is a member of The 1994 Group representing 19 of the UK's leading student-focused research-intensive universities. Established in 1994, it promotes excellence in university research and teaching.

View a full list of the University's press releases:

Frenchay Hospital

Frenchay Hospital, run by North Bristol NHS Trust, offers expert care for the most seriously burned children as part of the South West UK Burn Care Network.

North Bristol NHS Trust is the largest teaching trust in the south west with links to the region's top universities and has more than 9,000 staff delivering healthcare across Frenchay and Southmead Hospitals and within the communities of Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

AmpliPhi Biosciences

AmpliPhi BioSciences Corporation is a biotechnology company dedicated to the development of innovative anti-bacterial solutions to improve human health through the application of its proprietary bacteriophage platform. The Company's lead product development programs are targeting gram negative infections that are often resistant to existing antibiotic treatments. For more information, please visit

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements that involve known and unknown risks, delays, uncertainties and other factors not under the control of the AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation. AmpliPhi Bioscience's actual results, performance or achievements may differ materially from those conveyed in such forward-looking statements. The factors that could cause actual results, performance or achievements to differ from the forward-looking statements include the possibility that the expected benefits from the Company's acquisition of Biocontrol Ltd. will not be realized, or will not be realized within the anticipated time period; the risk that the combined businesses will not be integrated successfully; the risk that the Company's current financial resources and future financial resources will be insufficient to enable the Company to fund continuing operations; and the risk that the Company and its licensee's product development efforts will be unsuccessful. The Company is not subject to the reporting obligations of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and, accordingly, is not required to file current or periodic reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

1. Wright, A., et al., A controlled clinical trial of a therapeutic bacteriophage preparation in chronic otitis due to antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa; a preliminary report of efficacy. Clinical otolaryngology, 2009. 34(4): p. 349-357.

Contact: Rathbun Communications for AmpliPhi Biosciences
Julie Rathbun, 206-769-9219
University of Bath
Katrina James, +44 (0)7403 668718
Frenchay Hospital
Richard Cottle, +44 (0)117 3406779


Posted: July 2011