Hietala V, Horsma-Heikkinen J, Carron A, Skurnik M, Kiljunen S.

Frontiers in microbiology vol. 10 1674. 23 Jul. 2019


The production of phages for therapeutic purposes demands fast, efficient and scalable purification procedures. Phage lysates have a wide range of impurities, of which endotoxins of gram-negative bacteria and protein toxins produced by many pathogenic bacterial species are harmful to humans. The highest allowed endotoxin concentration for parenterally applied medicines is 5 EU/kg/h. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of different purification methods in endotoxin and protein toxin removal in the production of phage preparations for clinical use. In the purification assays, we utilized three phages: Escherichia phage vB_EcoM_fHoEco02, Acinetobacter phage vB_ApiM_fHyAci03, and Staphylococcus phage vB_SauM_fRuSau02. The purification methods tested in the study were precipitation with polyethylene glycol, ultracentrifugation, ultrafiltration, anion exchange chromatography, octanol extraction, two different endotoxin removal columns, and different combinations thereof. The efficiency of the applied purification protocols was evaluated by measuring phage titer and either endotoxins or staphylococcal enterotoxins A and C (SEA and SEC, respectively) from samples taken from different purification steps. The most efficient procedure in endotoxin removal was the combination of ultrafiltration and EndoTrap HD affinity column, which was able to reduce the endotoxin-to-phage ratio of vB_EcoM_fHoEco02 lysate from 3.5 × 104 Endotoxin Units (EU)/109 plaque forming units (PFU) to 0.09 EU/109 PFU. The combination of ultrafiltration and anion exchange chromatography resulted in ratio 96 EU/109 PFU, and the addition of octanol extraction step into this procedure still reduced this ratio threefold. The other methods tested either resulted to less efficient endotoxin removal or required the use of harmful chemicals that should be avoided when producing phage preparations for medical use. Ultrafiltration with 100,000 MWCO efficiently removed enterotoxins from vB_SauM_fRuSau02 lysate (from 1.3 to 0.06 ng SEA/109 PFU), and anion exchange chromatography reduced the enterotoxin concentration below 0.25 ng/ml, the detection limit of the assay.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance, bacteriophage, phage therapy, endotoxin, enterotoxin

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J-P Pirnay et al.

Pharm Res, Springer, 14 Jan 2015

The worldwide antibiotic crisis has led to a renewed interest in phage therapy. Since time immemorial phages control bacterial populations on Earth. Potent lytic phages against bacterial pathogens can be isolated from the environment or selected from a collection in a matter of days. In addition, phages have the capacity to rapidly overcome bacterial resistances, which will inevitably emerge.
To maximally exploit these advantage phages have over conventional drugs such as antibiotics, it is important that sustainable phage products are not submitted to the conventional long medicinal product development and licensing pathway. There is a need for an adapted framework, including realistic production and quality and safety requirements, that allows a timely supplying of phage therapy products for 'personalized therapy' or for public health or medical emergencies.
This paper enumerates all phage therapy product related quality and safety risks known to the authors, as well as the tests that can be performed to minimize these risks, only to the extent needed to protect the patients and to allow and advance responsible phage therapy and research.

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