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Bacteria-killing virus research targets most common vaginal infection

Ronan BV 920x540

Research which aims to treat the most common cause of vaginal infection by targeting it with treatments derived from bacterial viruses has received major backing from Innovate UK.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) affects up to 30% of women in Europe and North America, and whilst it is commonly treated with a course of antibiotics, 70% of patients experience reoccurrence within 9 months. 

Now, scientists at Brunel University London and synthetic biology firm CC Bio aim to develop a new antibiotic-free treatment for the condition using bacteriophages – viruses that target specific types of bacteria.

“As part of their lifecycle, bacteriophages produce specific enzymes called endolysins to break bacteria open,” said Dr Ronan McCarthy, a researcher in biomedical sciences at Brunel and co-investigator on the project.

“Here we are isolating these enzymes and using them as potential drugs to target the primary pathogen associated with BV, Gardnerella vaginalis. In particular, we aim to determine the ability of these enzymes to prevent the formation of a biofilm – the process by which bacteria attach to the body – which is a key reason for the failure of current therapies.”

The £250,000 project – Development of clinically translatable therapies for the treatment and prevention of bacterial vaginosis – will run for 18 months and aims to develop a treatment that not only significantly reduces the risk of reoccurrence, but also targets antimicrobial resistance brought about by multiple prescriptions of antibiotics.

Dr Matthew Cummings, CEO and co-founder of CC Bio, said: “We are proud to be working to resolve a condition which affects the lives of so many women worldwide. Given the risks of G. vaginalis carriage, the current treatment options are unacceptable and lead to a condition recurrence cycle which is so familiar and demoralising to patients. 

“In collaboration with our expert partners at Brunel University, the funding provided from this grant will allow us to take the first step to resolving this situation, through our precision endolysin technology.”

For further information on Biomedical Sciences at Brunel, please visit brunel.ac.uk/biomedical-sciences

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965
tim.pilgrim@brunel.ac.uk