A historical overview of bacteriophage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial pathogens

Virulence. 2014 Jan 1;5(1):226-35. doi: 10.4161/viru.25991. Epub 2013 Aug 13.


The seemingly inexorable spread of antibiotic resistance genes among microbial pathogens now threatens the long-term viability of our current antimicrobial therapy to treat severe bacterial infections such as sepsis. Antibiotic resistance is reaching a crisis situation in some bacterial pathogens where few therapeutic alternatives remain and pan-resistant strains are becoming more prevalent. Non-antibiotic therapies to treat bacterial infections are now under serious consideration and one possible option is the therapeutic use of specific phage particles that target bacterial pathogens. Bacteriophage therapy has essentially been re-discovered by modern medicine after widespread use of phage therapy in the pre-antibiotic era lost favor, at least in Western countries, after the introduction of antibiotics. We review the current therapeutic rationale and clinical experience with phage therapy as a treatment for invasive bacterial infection as novel alternative to antimicrobial chemotherapy.

Keywords: bacteriophage therapy; multidrug resistant pathogens; phage therapy; sepsis; septic shock.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / therapy*
  • Bacteriophages / classification
  • Bacteriophages / pathogenicity*
  • Biological Therapy / methods*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / microbiology*
  • Sepsis / therapy*