Bacteriophage (phage) therapy has encountered both enthusiasm and scepticism in the past century. New antimicrobial strategies against lethal pathogens are now a top priority for the World Health Organization, and although compassionate use of phages recently met with significant success, regulated clinical interventions seem unlikely in the near future. The hundredth anniversary of their discovery seems an appropriate time for a revival of phage therapy, particularly as the dilemma of antibiotic resistance grows. Phages are ubiquitous in the environment, on our food and in and on our bodies. Their influence on human health is currently being evaluated, and in this mini-review, we examine data from recent metagenomic studies that propose a role for phages in the structure of the microbiome and in health and disease. We assess evidence for phages as vehicles for gene transfer in the context of antibiotic resistance and discuss challenges and opportunities along the critical path from phage discovery to a patient-focused pharmaceutical intervention.
© 2017 The British Pharmacological Society.