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Companies to Develop Drug to Kill E.coli

Updated:
BANGALORE, India (AP) _ U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. plans to work with an Indian firm to develop a drug that uses benign viruses to kill the deadly E. coli bacteria in cattle, the Indian company said Thursday.

India's Gangagen Biotechnologies developed the drug and signed an agreement last week with Elanco Animal Health, Eli Lilly's animal feed division, to convert the drug into a cattle feed supplement, Janakiraman Ramachandran, chairman of Gangagen Biotechnologies, told reporters

Developing the drug cost Gangagen $3 millio, and Elanco plans to spend another $5 million to produce the cattle feed.

The drug can help prevent the bacteria from spreading to humans through contaminated beef, which causes 70,000 infections and a few dozen deaths each year in the United States alone, Ramachandran said.

``A cocktail of such viruses can be a better option than antibiotics, which are increasingly losing their edge,'' said Ramachandran.

Bacteriophages, as the viruses are known, were used to treat injured soldiers during World War I, but their use subsided after the advent of antibiotics.

However, improved bacteriophages have regained popularity over the past decade as an alternative to antibiotics, against which several bacteria have developed resistance.

The companies plan to carry out a trial among 400 cattle in Canada next year and launch the drug there by mid-2007. They hope to start selling it in the U.S. soon after.

Gangagen obtained two U.S. patents in July to use bacteriophages to cure infections without side-effects.
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