Bacteriophage applications: where are we now?


David Harper, Chief Scientific Officer, Biocontrol Ltd, Colworth Science Park, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire MK44 1LQ, UK. E-mail:


Bacteriophages are bacterial viruses and have been used for almost a century as antimicrobial agents. In the West, their use diminished when chemical antibiotics were introduced, but they remain a common therapeutic approach in parts of eastern Europe. Increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria has driven the demand for novel therapies to control infections and led to the replacement of antibiotics in animal husbandry. Alongside this, increased pressure to improve food safety has created a need for faster detection of pathogenic bacteria. Hence, there has been a resurgence of interest in bacteriophage applications, and this has encouraged the emergence of a large number of biotech companies hoping to commercialize their use. Research in Europe and the United States has increased steadily, leading to the development of a range of applications for bacteriophage agents for the healthcare, veterinary and agricultural sectors. This article will attempt to answer the question of whether bacteriophages are now delivering on their potential.