Metchnikoff was one of the first to suggest the need for cooperation between phagocytes and therapeutic agents for the benefit of health. After the hopes raised by the discovery and the tremendous development of antimicrobials, there is now a creeping pessimism faced with the parallel evolution of resistance strategies in the microbial world. Interest has now turned to the use of immunomodulatory drugs, alone or combined with anti-infectious agents. Another tendency is based on the possibility that antimicrobials directly interfere with the host-microbe interplay. This review is aimed at summarizing our knowledge of the interactions between antimicrobial agents and the phagocyte, still a cornerstone in the natural defence system. Despite the problems inherent in the analysis and clinical relevance of effects observed in the test tube this developing area of research could provide new therapeutic solutions beyond the year 2000.