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Phage Therapy in the Resistance Era: Where Do We Stand and Where Are We Going?


Tiffany Luong, Ann-Charlott Salabarria, Dwayne R. Roach

Phage Therapy in the Resistance Era: Where Do We Stand and Where Are We Going?

Clinical Therapeutics, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2020.07.014.




Widespread antibiotic-resistant bacteria are threatening the arsenal of existing antibiotics. Not only are antibiotics less likely to be effective today, but their extensive use continues to drive the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens. A new-old antibacterial strategy with bacteriophages (phages) is under development, namely, phage therapy. Phages are targeted bacterial viruses with multiple antibacterial effector functions, which can reduce multidrug-resistant infections within the human body. This review summarizes recent phage therapy clinical trials and patient cases and outlines the fundamentals behind phage treatment strategies under development, mainly through bench-to-bedside approaches. We discuss the challenges that remain in phage therapy and the role of phages when combined with antibiotic therapy.


This narrative review presents the current knowledge and latest findings regarding phage therapy. Relevant case reports and research articles available through the Scopus and PubMed databases are discussed.


Although recent clinical data suggest the tolerability and, in some cases, efficacy of phage therapy, the clinical functionality still requires careful definition. The lack of well-controlled clinical trial data and complex regulatory frameworks have driven the most recent human data generation on a single-patient compassionate use basis. These cases often include the concomitant use of antibiotics, which makes it difficult to draw conclusions regarding the effectiveness of phages alone. However, human data support using antibiotics as phage potentiators and resistance breakers; thus, phage adjuvants are a promising avenue for near-term clinical development. Current knowledge gaps exist on the appropriate routes of administration, phage selection, frequency of administration, dosage, phage resistance, and pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of the phages. In addition, we highlight that some phage therapies have mild adverse effects in patients.


Although more translational research is needed before the clinical implementation is feasible, phage therapy may well be pivotal in safeguarding humans against antibiotic-resistant infections.