Rebiotix’s Gut Bacteria Drug Keeps Infection Recurrences at Bay

Rebiotix Inc., a closely held biotechnology company, said its drug that restores beneficial gut bacteria was better than a placebo at keeping life-threatening intestinal infections from recurring in a human trial.

Recurrences of infections with Clostridium difficile, a potentially deadly microbe that often attacks sick, hospitalized patients, were prevented in 63.9 percent of people who took the drug, compared to 45.5 percent of those who received a placebo, according to data from a mid-stage trial presented Monday at the United European Gastroenterology Week conference in Vienna.

About half a million infections and 29,000 deaths a year are linked to C. difficile, a bacterium that often grows quickly in very sick patients’ intestines when other, beneficial microbes are killed off by antibiotic treatment, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Rebiotix’s drug contains bacteria found in the human gut that are intended to restore the population of healthy bacteria, often called the microbiome. 

“Our data is just the start,” Lee Jones, Rebiotix’s founder and chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. “It has great potential to change the way medicine is practiced in the future, using science like this.”

The drug was administered through an enema. Rebiotix, based in Roseville, Minnesota, is planning a final-stage trial in early 2017, Jones said.

Other companies studying microbiome-based treatments include Seres Therapeutics Inc., which said in July that its drug failed to treat C. difficile in a trial. A Cowen and Co. survey of doctors and investors suggests that both remain optimistic about the approach, Ritu Baral, an analyst with the firm, said Friday in a telephone interview.

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