Zurich Researchers Turn to Phages for Urinary Tract Infections

Zurich – Long-standing research by the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich on phages to combat urinary tract infections will enter the clinical phase in 2024. The aim is to clarify whether phages may be more effective against urinary tract infections than antibiotics.

Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are working on phage therapies against urinary tract infections, according to a report by UZH. They see this as a way out of increasing antibiotic resistance. Phages - viruses that only infect bacteria and kill them - could free those affected from dependence on antibiotics and may be a solution for chronically recurring infections, which often cause kidney disease.

The report traces how Thomas Kessler, head physician for neuro-urology at Balgrist University Hospital, learned by chance over 15 years ago that it was possible to buy a drug for urinary tract infections in a pharmacy in Tbilisi that contained phages rather than antibiotics. In response, Kessler and his team published the world's first randomized study in 2011. Among other things, it showed that the phages work as well as antibiotics.

Subsequently, Martin Loessner at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich genetically modified phages so that they specifically destroy bacteria in the bladder and urinary tract. The collaboration between the researchers resulted in two new projects, CAUTIphage and ImmunoPhage. Phages modified in this way are due to enter the clinical phase this year.

Since 2023, Kessler has been working on another project called mTORUS. In addition to treatment with phages, a healthy microbiome is also transplanted into the bladder. "These findings could also be extended to other bacterial infections as well as systemic inflammatory diseases and possibly bladder cancer," says Kessler. But further research is still needed. ce/mm

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