What are the disadvantages of using phage therapy?

Bacteriophage therapy is gaining widespread attention as a result of the global superbug crisis. Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics; these organisms tend to develop mechanisms that protect them from the drug's effects. Antimicrobial resistance is caused by a variety of factors, including the use of a drug without a diagnosis, the use of human drugs on animals, the overuse of antibiotics, and many others. Bacteriophages, as a natural enemy of these bacteria, tend to evolve as the bacteria evolve to resist it; thus, no superbug can be without a phage; it just takes time to find the right virus for the job. If the pathogen in question is a superbug, the phage is superior to antibiotics. But are there any drawbacks to using phage therapy?
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List of limitations facing phage therapy (disadvantages of using phage therapy)

Take long to  prepare (cant be used in an emergency)

Bacteriophages necessitate a slew of tests, beginning with isolation, purification, characterization, and storage. Because all of these processes can take days to weeks, phage therapy is not appropriate for use in an emergency. Some researchers have attempted to develop phage cocktails that increase the likelihood of encountering a sensitive pathogen, thereby shortening the preparation time by using ready-prepared products.

Can not be used as a wide-spectrum antibiotics

Bacteriophages are viruses, and viruses are mostly specific to a specific host cell, which means they attack one bacteria group but not another. This has limited the use of phage therapy in cases where multiple bacterial infections necessitate the use of a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent. A phage cocktail can also be used to solve this problem.

Contribute to the Development of Antibiotic Resistance (Horizontal Transfer of Antibiotic Resistance Genes to the bacteria)

The DNA of lysogenic phages is incorporated into the bacterial genome. As a result, they may serve as vehicles for the horizontal exchange of genetic material and aid in the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). In theory, transduction can result in the acquisition of lethal or new genes by new microbes or even more resistant bacteria. However, the true contribution of phages to the spread of ARGs is not well defined. Most studies that have specifically planned to measure how frequently phages encode ARGs have suggested that these viruses are ARG reservoirs. 

Reduced Activity Due to Immune System Response

Bacteriophages and their products are non-self-antigens, so it's not surprising that they can be recognized by the immune system and cause responses that could theoretically reduce the benefit of their administration. Immune responses have been demonstrated in both experimental animals and humans, though this may vary depending on the phage strain, route of administration, and prior exposure.

The use of bacteriophage therapy appears to be intriguing, but there are some drawbacks that must be addressed before the therapy can be applied at the industrial level/capacity. The benefits of phage therapy outweigh its drawbacks, and I hope to have over-the-counter phage preparations available worldwide in the near future. More research is required.

About the author

Hello there!

I'm Raphael Hans Lwesya. I have a deep interest in phage research and science communication. I strive to simplify complex ideas and present the latest phage-related research in an easy-to-digest format. Thank you for visiting The Phage blog. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me at [email protected].

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