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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2007 Aug;30(2):118-28. Epub 2007 Jun 12.

Bacteriophages: an appraisal of their role in the treatment of bacterial infections.

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School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Brighton, Moulsecoomb, Brighton BN2 4GJ, UK.


Bacteriophages were first used successfully to treat bacterial infections a decade before penicillin was discovered. However, the excitement that greeted those initial successes was short-lived, as a lack of understanding of basic phage biology subsequently led to a catalogue of clinical failures. As a consequence, bacteriophage therapy was largely abandoned in the West in favour of the newly emerging antibiotics. Now, as the problem of antibiotic resistance becomes ever more acute, a number of scientists and clinicians are looking again at bacteriophages as a therapeutic option in the treatment of bacterial infections. The chances of success second time round would appear to be much better given our current extensive knowledge of bacteriophage biology following their important role in underpinning the advances in molecular biology. We also have available to us the experience of nearly 80 years of clinical usage in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as well as a political climate that encourages sharing of that knowledge. This review outlines those features of bacteriophages that contribute to their utility in therapy and explores the potential for their re-introduction into Western medicine. An abundance of clinical evidence is available in the Soviet literature but much of this is technically flawed and a more realistic appraisal of the clinical value of phages can be obtained from animal studies conducted in the West. As interest in bacteriophages increases, a number of companies throughout the world have begun investing in phage technology and this has led to novel approaches to therapy, some of which will be discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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