By Saumya Joseph

(Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Ferring International Center SA said its experimental non-antibiotic treatment met the main goal of reducing the recurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections caused by a superbug.

Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile, is a superbug responsible for an infection that can cause serious and life-threatening diarrhea, and is considered as a major health threat by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Initial data from the trial showed that patients on Ferring’s microbiome-based treatment had a statistically significant reduction in recurrence of infection at eight weeks, compared to placebo, the company said.

While antibiotics are the standard of care for treating the infection, they are also the primary risk factor for disease recurrence as antibiotics tend to kill the good bacteria that protects against infections.

People on antibiotics are 7 to 10 times more likely to get C. difficile and remain susceptible for several months, according to the U.S. CDC.

Ferring’s therapy, which it gained through its 2018 acquisition of Rebiotix Inc, works by helping restore the balance of protective bacteria in the gut that were wiped out by the antibiotics.

“We actually replenish what was there to begin with and so those patients can actually fight off their own diseases,” Lee Jones, CEO of Rebiotix, told Reuters.

Several companies are working on alternatives to antibiotics for C. difficile. Among approved therapies is Merck & Co’s Zinplava, a human monoclonal antibody used to reduce recurrence in adults receiving antibacterial treatment and who are at high risk for infection.

Ferring said it expects to have full data from the study in the second half of the year, and aims to file the U.S. marketing application by the end of 2020.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Supriya Kurane)