Members of the genus Campylobacter are frequently responsible for human enteric disease with occasionally very serious outcomes. Much of this disease burden is thought to arise from consumption of contaminated poultry products. More than 80% of poultry in the UK harbour Campylobacter as a part of their intestinal flora. To address this unacceptably high prevalence, various interventions have been suggested and evaluated. Among these is the novel approach of using Campylobacter-specific bacteriophages, which are natural predators of the pathogen. To optimize their use as therapeutic agents, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the bacteriophages that infect Campylobacter, and how they can affect their host bacteria. This review will focus on many aspects of Campylobacter-specific bacteriophages including: their first isolation in the 1960s, their use in bacteriophage typing schemes, their isolation from the different biological sources and genomic characterization. As well as their use as therapeutic agents to reduce Campylobacter in poultry their future potential, including their use in bio-sanitization of food, will be explored. The evolutionary consequences of naturally occurring bacteriophage infection that have come to light through investigations of bacteriophages in the poultry ecosystem will also be discussed.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Applied Microbiology © 2011 The Society for Applied Microbiology.