What is Phage Therapy?

Phage therapy – the use of phages to treat bacterial infections in humans

What are Bacteriophages? What is Phage Therapy?

Nature is a wondrous thing. It is truly self-sustaining, left to its own devices. Bacteria are found everywhere in our biosphere, but nature has a way of preventing bacterial overgrowth and keeping them under control. It does so with the help of ‘bacteriophages‘.

Bacteriophages, or simply ‘phages’, are naturally occurring viruses that infect and feed on bacteria. They do not harm any organisms other than bacteria. They are found everywhere – in the air, in water, soil, food, even inside our bodies, and any other environment that allows bacteria to grow in it.

Phage Therapy is the use of phages to cure bacterial infections in human hosts.
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Phages attach themselves to the wall of the bacterial cell and inject their DNA (genetic material) into the bacterial cell. The DNA uses the cell structure and nutrition from the bacteria to replicate itself. As more and more copies of the phage are created, the bacterial cell bursts and the phages inside are released. These phages then find other bacterial cells to infect, and repeat the process with them, thus eliminating the entire colony of bacteria in this manner.

If a patient has a bacterial infection, a relevant body fluid or swab is cultured to ascertain the bacteria infecting their body. Once the culture is obtained, various phage medicines are applied to the cultured bacteria to test whether it can be killed by the phages. Once a sensitive phage medication is identified, it is used to treat the infection.

There are many ways to administer the phage medication, and the appropriate methods are decided by the treating doctors based on the location of the infection, among other factors.

Phages are not ‘broad-spectrum’ by nature. That is, a specific phage is only meant for a corresponding bacterial strain. This means that when you take the phage medicine, it does not start destroying all the bacteria inside your body. Only the bacteria that the phage is meant to ‘eat’ will be attacked by it. This is beneficial as the good bacteria, or ‘probiotics’ that help in our digestion and immunity, remain unaffected by the phage medication.

What Infections and Conditions can Phage Therapy Cure?

Please visit our page Conditions Phage Therapy Treats to see the list of diseases commonly cured by phage therapy.

Safety of Phage Therapy

Before I began my treatment with phage therapy, I had a plethora of questions regarding its safety, efficacy, side effects and other limitations. My family too felt the same concerns, and they had to be addressed to put our minds at ease.

We found the following articles and research papers that cleared a number of our doubts.


Bacteriophage Therapy
The emergence of pathogenic bacteria resistant to most, if not all, currently available antimicrobial agents has become a critical problem in modern medicine, particularly because of the concomitant increase in immunosuppressed patients. The concern that humankind is…
Phage Therapy: Past History and Future Prospects
Bacterial viruses (bacteriophages, also called “phages”) can be robust antibacterial agents in vitro. However, their use as therapeutic agents, during a number of trials from the1920s to the 1950s…
The perspectives of the application of phage therapy in chronic bacterial prostatitis
Chronic bacterial prostatitis (CBP) is a long-lasting and crippling disease that strongly impacts the patient’s quality of life. The diagnosis of CBP is difficult and the treatment regimens are not always successful…
I also have my personal experience of taking phages for many months in order to cure my Chronic Epididymitis and Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis. During this period, and afterwards, I felt no side effects of phages, and they have not negatively impacted me in any way.

As opposed to the antibiotics that I took orally that weakened me in just 6 weeks but did nothing to cure my infection, this was medication that I could take for a prolonged period of time without harming my body in the process.

Responsible Use of Phages

Though phage therapy has little to no side effects, even when consumed over a long period of time, phages need to be used with care.

To be the most effective, they should ideally be applied at the site of infection, or as close to it as possible. An oral form of the phages will aid the topical application, but the closer one applies phages to where the infection is happening, the quicker and more effective the results will be.

The other thing to keep in mind is that phages should be used only after knowing the sensitivity of the infecting bacteria to the phages. If phage therapy is to be used over a long period of time, testing should be repeated to ensure that only those phages that will work against the infecting bacteria are used, and they are not used without a bacterial infection present. This is important because:
  • You would not want the body to develop an unnecessary immunity against phages, whereby it detects unutilised phages inside the body, and flushes them out by creating any antibodies against the phages.
  • You also do not want the existing good bacteria in the body to develop a resistance to phages unnecessarily. If you get another infection going forward, the resistance from the good bacteria could also be transmitted to the infection causing bacteria, thus increasing the time taken to treat it.

Like any form of medicine, it is important to undertake phage therapy under proper guidance by experienced and qualified practitioners.