Are phages more effective than antibiotics?

Bacteriophage attacking the bacteria courtesy Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

In recent years bacteriophages have gained popularity on being the last option when antibiotics have failed. Many people are still doubting the safety of using bacteriophages for clinical application due to fear of some imaginable implications basing on the fact that these are viral particles introduced to the human body.  Up to date in many countries, antibiotics remained the first line on fighting bacterial infections, but due to the rise in antibiotic resistance these drugs fail to deliver the expectations. In some scenarios, cases of multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria were successfully treated using bacteriophage while in most of the cases no side effect was directly related to the phage therapy offered to the patient.

Why are phages not commonly used in treatments?

Several reasons made phage therapy not so common around the globe. One major reason is the narrow host range. A host range is the number of bacterial species a phage can kill (the host range applies to antibiotics too). Usually, one specific bacteriophage only infects and kills one specific species of bacteria, and not every kind of phage can be used for treating some of them are lysogenic phages and not lytic hence not suitable for therapy. Although there are some other disadvantages of using phage therapy which you might not get when using antibiotics for treatment

Why are antibiotics prevailing despite outstanding phage therapy effectiveness?

Most antibiotics have a much wider host range. Some antibiotics can kill a wide range of bacterial species at the same time. This is one of the major reasons why antibiotics are still in use in many parts of the world as a first choice for treating bacterial infections. Most antibiotics work by interfering with certain systems in bacteria. Rather than stopping bacteria from doing one specific process like in the case of antibiotics, phages actively destroy the bacteria's cell wall and cell membrane and kill bacteria by making many holes from the inside out.

Are phages more effective than antibiotics?

The answer can be both Yes and No. If the effectiveness of clearing one specific bacteria is considered the bacteriophages are way far ahead of antibiotics but if clearance of multiple bacterial infections, antibiotics will be the favorable option. Although Phage cocktails preparations can solve this whereby phages specific for different bacteria are mixed together to make a concoction that can clear multiple infections.

Phage Fast Facts

  • Phages won’t harm any of your cells except for the bacterial cells that they’re meant to kill.
  • Phage therapy has fewer side effects than antibiotics. 
  • On the other hand, most antibiotics have a much wider host range. Some antibiotics can kill a wide range of bacterial species at the same time.
  • The human immune system sometimes recognizes phages as “foreigners” and tries to kill them. To prevent this, doctors can give their patients large amounts of phage particles.


  1. Bacteriophages are here to save lives especially in a scenario where AMR is concerned. thanks Raph great article.

  2. I am impressed but there is need for more extensive and intensive evaluation on these phage therapeutics.

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