How an oral immunotherapy treatment is combating superbugs — A Q&A with Immuron's Jerry Kanellos

Victoria, Australia-based Immuron has developed an oral immunotherapy using polyclonal antibody products, in place of antibiotics, to combat superbugs and antibiotic resistant bacteria, and boost the effectiveness of novel treatments.

Immuron's Chief Operating and Scientific Officer Jerry Kanellos, MD, spoke to Becker's about the therapies invention, how gastroenterologists could benefit from the therapy and the dangers of superbugs.

Question: How was the therapy invented?
Dr. Jerry Kanellos: For this therapy, we utilize the unique, naturally-occurring properties where passive immunity is provided to defend against infections and facilitate immune health within the digestive tract. In particular, we use bovine colostrum and IgG which can be administered orally and remains immunologically active in the human GI tract, only working on bacteria within the gut.

By repeated immunization of pregnant dairy cows we can stimulate the production of high levels of IgG against a specified antigen and produce therapeutic products that specifically target harmful bacteria which do not destroy the microbiome.

Our therapy and technology platform takes advantage of this ability to develop a target specific defense by producing polyclonal antibodies that target multiple sites on the key antigens bacteria need to survive. It is based on immunoglobulins which are biological macromolecules generated by the immune system.

This therapy, while extremely efficient and capable of overcoming bacterial infections, is not an antibiotic as it instead targets and blocks bacterial receptors and the toxins they produce to render them incapable of creating complications within the gut. With this therapeutic approach there is significant potential for the threat of antibiotic resistance to be minimized and the effectiveness against bacterial strains displaying resistance to be increased, as the essential mechanisms are debilitated instead of eliminated.

Q: How will gastroenterologists benefit from the therapy?
JK: Immuron's therapy and technology platform enables macromolecules to be delivered orally, which is the preferred method for healthcare professionals and patients, and offers numerous advantages over other intravenous therapy options. The ability to orally administer this therapy provides patients with the freedom to self-administer treatments at a lower cost, and may provide safe and effective preventative care and extended therapy options. Simultaneously, this therapy is capable of keeping up with new bacterial threats and diseases as its polyclonal antibodies offer high cross reactivity to new emerging and hyper-virulent strains.

Q: What sort of risks do these superbugs pose to the general public?
JK: There is a desperate worldwide need to reduce or replace the use of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance has emerged and is now one of our most serious global health threats as bacteria's ability to resist treatment has been lethal for patients whose bacterial strains were unresponsive to treatment. Antibiotics are a precious and diminishing resource, which must be used sparingly and with careful consideration to preserve their utility.

Q: What work is being done to reduce this risk in the future?
JK: There have been very few developments for new classes of antibiotics in recent years which is why it's essential that non-antibiotic treatments are developed to replace the overused antibiotic therapies wherever possible. Healthcare providers are being encouraged not to over subscribe antibiotics however, it is the responsibility of researchers, providers and manufacturers to identify and develop and provide new solutions that do not depend on antibiotics. At Immuron, we're doing just that with our work in creating therapies that instead focus on utilizing natural antibodies to target antigens on harmful bacteria.

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