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Sunday, May 31, 2020

What do we know

Time for me to remind people about phages. Phages would make a world of difference to me. Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that amongst many issues brings about severe lung infections. People with CF typically live on permanent antibiotics and in the end require a lung transplant once their lungs have given in to infection. As you can imagine the side-effects of all the antibiotics is terrible, kidney damage, loss of hearing,... and the infections we fight hardly respond to any antibiotics. Yet doctors still admit us to hospitals for week on week of IV antibiotics at great expense to the State. Boy was I surprised when I learned about bacteriophages.

Turns out not even my doctor had heard about them, despite being widely and successfully used in the East-bloc countries for almost a century. Even researchers around the world, in defence organisations, and most universities study them, for human applications even, and our own Australian CSIRO dedicated an entire quarterly Biochemistry magazine to phages in human applications last year.  Phages are a very effective and very safe, and cheap alternative to antibiotics, and unlike antibiotics, no new ones need to be developed all the time because bacteriophages, phages for short, naturally occur in nature everywhere there are bacteria. In fact, there are 10x more phage types than there are bacteria in the world, we are full of them, as we are of bacteria. Out of the millions of types of bacteria, only a handful are dangerous to humans, no phages I have ever heard of harm humans.

So I went to Europe with my bestie Cindy to go and have a look at how phages were used. I took footage with a GoPro and took notes. Of course, we got stuck in the covid19 period which was another story...

Now I need to put it all together in a format that can be watched. Hopefully a 20-minute doco for Youtube I was thinking There are documentaries on phages that have been shown on SBS and US and European TV, but they all deal with miracle stories where people were on the brink of death and phages got them healed in a matter of days/weeks. I have come to realise that although that is totally correct, by the time you have permission to use experimental medicine and lined up the resources to isolate and prepare the relevant phages needed etc takes a tremendous amount of last-minute luck and coordination. Establishing the infrastructure for phage therapy to treat difficult antibiotic-resistant infections is not something that will happen overnight.

On my trip, I saw how people from other countries where phages are allowed, use them. None of them have that infrastructure either, though institutes exist where wealthy individuals can get treated privately. The whole world's medical system has switched to antibiotics it seems. So how are phages working in those countries now?

Simple, they have generic phage-based medicine that work for the less hardy but very common community infections, the kind we in the western world consult a doctor for and we get antibiotics prescribed. Our complaints usually go in a matter of days. In the poorer Eastbloc countries people buy cheap phage-based medicine and most of the time their symptoms go within days AND without having to consult a doctor and without being prescribed antibiotics.  We need this here, and Phage medicine is commercially produced in great quantities already, for millions of happy people, and has been in use for decades and decades without interactions or allergic reactions. Shouldn't we at least have the choice>

And what I have learned along the way as well is that over the past so many years phage-based antibacterial potions are already used in Western agriculture and aquaculture, and in food manufacturing, even sprayed on ready to eat foods, and what is more amazing to learn is that if the food is organic it still remains certifiably organic after the phage treatment is applied to stop people getting food infections from packaged foods.

And another thing, you cannot overdose on them either, they are auto-dosing, and are not listed on any poison schedule, they are allowed to be imported without special permission either from quarantine or customs, just need to be documented and produced commercially in a certified facility. ...  Well, hello people, why aren't we getting them here?

And this is the big problem, pharmaceutical companies would lose an enormous amount of business/revenue, and this is the only plausible reason I see for us not getting it in Western countries. Not only that, but there is also no money in it for them to develop it or market phages because as they are naturally occurring they cannot be patented... But society needs them now!!

I want to educate the world, educate the cystic fibrosis community, educate the doctors! I want a simple documentary to explain the above. I have almost all the material required. Just not the skill to put it all together, but I AM WORKING ON THAT :)  Never give up!

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