Dressing harnesses viruses to combat bacterial infection

1 min read

A spin-out company from Strathclyde University is gearing up to produce wound dressings that can deliver bacterial viruses to combat infection.

The prototype dressing is the first in a line of antimicrobial products from Fixed Phage that will harness the power of bacteriophages, the naturally occurring viruses that are non-toxic to humans, animals and plants but which can destroy bacteria. Fixed Phage’s bacteriophages will be used to tackle resistant infections such as MRSA and certain tuberculosis strains.

Dr Mike Mattey, honorary lecturer at Strathclyde and chief scientific officer of Fixed Phage, said: ‘If you imagine them as little hypodermic syringes which inject the cell — it’s a nanotechnology, but a natural one. One bacteriophage will infect one bacterium, which then produces 50 more bacteriophages that will infect 50 bacteria and so on.

‘It’s very different to conventional treatment in terms of pharmacodynamics. The more bacteria there are to kill, the better it works.’

Initial development of the technology and prototype was funded through the former Synergy Fund, owned by Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow, and through Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Programme.

Mattey explained how they manufactured the wound dressing prototype, which has shown promising results in preliminary trials. He said: ’You grow the bacteria then infect them with the bacteriophages, and then you harvest the bacteriophages and purify them.

‘We then use corona discharge as a method of forming bonds between the phages and the [dressing] surface; it’s very like printing technology, basically using an electric field to activate the surface you’re interested in. It’s quick and effective; we basically run it though a corona machine, which can print hundreds of metres.’

To get to small-scale commercial production the company is receiving funding from Scottish venture capital company Barwell in partnership with Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Co-Investment Fund.

Mattey said Fixed Phage is currently preparing to market its prototype wound dressing to various medical-devices companies who will hopefully manufacture them alongside similar products.

‘Bacteriophage have been known for 100 years to kill bacteria, it’s just how you actually get that to work in a commercial situation, in a practical situation,’ he said.