Improving treatment of cystic fibrosis with seaweed
Developing new therapies to tackle life-threatening, drug-resistant bacterial lung infections.
Cystic fibrosis is an incurable genetic condition which causes the organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, to become clogged with thick sticky mucus. Bacterial colonisation of patients’ lungs eventually leads to chronic infection.
The situation is made worse by the rising numbers of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics, making these chronic infections difficult to treat.
The Advanced Therapies Group (Professor David Thomas, Dr Katja Hill, Dr Lydia Powell, Dr Manon Pritchard and Dr Elaine Ferguson) are working to develop a new treatment from seaweed for this debilitating disease and other chronic infections.
Developing a drug
For the last nine years they have worked in collaboration with the Norwegian company AlgiPharma AS. Together they have developed an inhalation therapy to help remove the thick stagnant mucus and bacterial biofilms that characterise chronic lung disease in cystic fibrosis patients. They are now working with scientists and clinicians around the world to test and develop the drug, called OligoG, for clinical use.
Using specialised microscopy techniques and microbiological assays, the group have shown that OligoG is able to impair and disrupt bacterial biofilm growth in the laboratory. They have also shown that it can make antibiotics more effective against resistant bacteria. OligoG therefore has exciting potential that could prolong the life of cystic fibrosis patients. OligoG, the drug candidate for cystic fibrosis now has Orphan Drug designation from both the European Medicines Agency and the US Federal Drugs Administration.
Improving lung clearance in cystic fibrosis patients
Chronic infection and mucus over-production in cystic fibrosis favours the accumulation of bacteria in the lungs, restricting the access of antibiotics and hampering effective treatment. The agent OligoG effectively breaks down this mucus "barrier" allowing lung clearance, and enhances treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these life-limiting lung infections.
While the research is continuing in the laboratory, Phase I and Phase II clinical trials have established that OligoG is safe and well tolerated in cystic fibrosis patients. Two Phase IIb clinical trials are also nearing completion in cystic fibrosis patients, with patients recruited across multiple locations in several European countries.
Meet our experts
Professor/Hon Consultant in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Programme Director Implant Dentistry, Director Wales Integrated Academic Training programme in Dentistry, School of Dentistry, URI Innovation Lead
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- Pritchard, M. F. et al. 2017. The antimicrobial effects of the alginate oligomer OligoG CF-5/20 are independent of direct bacterial cell membrane disruption. Scientific Reports 7 44731. (10.1038/srep44731)
- Pritchard, M. F. et al. 2016. A new class of safe oligosaccharide polymer therapy to modify the mucus barrier of chronic respiratory disease. Molecular Pharmaceutics 13 (3), pp.863-872. (10.1021/acs.molpharmaceut.5b00794)
- Tondervik, A. et al., 2014. Alginate oligosaccharides inhibit fungal cell growth and potentiate the activity of anti-fungals against Candida and Aspergillus spp. PLoS ONE e112518. (10.1371/journal.pone.0112518)
- Powell, L. C. et al. 2014. A nanoscale characterization of the interaction of a novel alginate oligomer with the cell surface and motility of pseudomonas aeruginosa. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology 50 (3), pp.483-492. (10.1165/rcmb.2013-0287OC)
- Roberts, J. L. et al. 2013. An in vitro study of alginate oligomer therapies on oral biofilms. Journal of Dentistry 41 (10), pp.892-899. (10.1016/j.jdent.2013.07.011)
- Powell, L. C. et al. 2013. The effect of alginate oligosaccharides on the mechanical properties of Gram-negative biofilms. Biofouling 29 (4), pp.413-421. (10.1080/08927014.2013.777954)
- Khan, S. et al. 2012. Overcoming drug resistance with alginate oligosaccharides able to potentiate the action of selected antibiotics. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 56 (10), pp.5134-5141. (10.1128/AAC.00525-12)
This research was made possible through our close partnership with and support from: