Designing phage therapeutics

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2010 Jan;11(1):15-27. doi: 10.2174/138920110790725348.


Phage therapy is the application of phages to bodies, substances, or environments to effect the biocontrol of pathogenic or nuisance bacteria. To be effective, phages, minimally, must be capable of attaching to bacteria (adsorption), killing those bacteria (usually associated with phage infection), and otherwise surviving (resisting decay) until they achieve attachment and subsequent killing. While a strength of phage therapy is that phages that possess appropriate properties can be chosen from a large diversity of naturally occurring phages, a more rational approach to phage therapy also can include post-isolation manipulation of phages genetically, phenotypically, or in terms of combining different products into a single formulation. Genetic manipulation, especially in these modern times, can involve genetic engineering, though a more traditional approach involves the selection of spontaneously occurring phage mutants during serial transfer protocols. While genetic modification typically is done to give rise to phenotypic changes in phages, phage phenotype alone can also be modified in vitro, prior to phage application for therapeutic purposes, as for the sake of improving phage lethality (such as by linking phage virions to antibacterial chemicals such as chloramphenicol) or survival capabilities (e.g., via virion PEGylation). Finally, phages, both naturally occurring isolates or otherwise modified constructs, can be combined into cocktails which provide collectively enhanced capabilities such as expanded overall host range. Generally these strategies represent different routes towards improving phage therapy formulations and thereby efficacy through informed design.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / virology*
  • Bacteriophages / classification*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Biological Therapy / trends*
  • Drug Design
  • Genetic Enhancement / methods*
  • Humans
  • Viral Vaccines / therapeutic use*


  • Viral Vaccines