The worldwide emergence of antibiotic resistances and the drying up of the antibiotic pipeline have spurred a search for alternative or complementary antibacterial therapies. Bacteriophages are bacterial viruses that have been used for almost a century to combat bacterial infections, particularly in Poland and the former Soviet Union.
The antibiotic crisis has triggered a renewed clinical and agricultural interest in bacteriophages. This, combined with new scientific insights, has pushed bacteriophages to the forefront of the search for new approaches to fighting bacterial infections. But before bacteriophage therapy can be introduced into clinical practice in the European Union, several challenges must be overcome. One of these is the conceptualization and classification of bacteriophage therapy itself and the extent to which it constitutes a human medicinal product regulated under the European Human Code for Medicines (Directive 2001/83/EC).
Can therapeutic products containing natural bacteriophages be categorized under the current European regulatory framework, or should this framework be adapted? Various actors in the field have discussed the need for an adapted (or entirely new) regulatory framework for the reintroduction of bacteriophage therapy in Europe. This led to the identification of several characteristics specific to natural bacteriophages that should be taken into consideration by regulators when evaluating bacteriophage therapy.
One important consideration is whether bacteriophage therapy development occurs on an industrial scale or a hospital-based, patient-specific scale. More suitable regulatory standards may create opportunities to improve insights into this promising therapeutic approach. In light of this, we argue for the creation of a new, dedicated European regulatory framework for bacteriophage therapy.