The Technology

Bacteriophages (phages) are naturally occurring predators of bacteria. Their biology can be complex, but their potential for disease therapy is obvious. This potential was spotted immediately by one of the co-discoverers of phage, and one of the earliest proponents of biocontrol, Felix d’Herelle. His discovery in 1917 that discrete particles were responsible for killing bacteria in laboratory experiments signalled the possibility that he had a cure for disease caused by these bacteria.

Despite showing promise, the application of phages in disease treatment was overshadowed by the appearance of chemical antibiotics such as penicillin. Such was their effectiveness as broad spectrum antibiotics, the potential for phage was never explored or exploited fully, except for certain countries in eastern Europe and former USSR, where phage therapies are used routinely.

However, the past two decades have seen a growing awareness of the phenomenon of drug resistance. Antibiotics which were believed to be the ultimate defence against bacterial disease have been found increasingly lacking in more and more infectious diseases, heralding the advent of ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA, resistant to many of the antibiotics available.

An urgent review of the way antibiotics are used is underway, as is the search for alternative treatments where antibiotics fail. The case for the revaluation of the potential for bacteriophage therapy is compelling.

An excellent summary of the history of phage therapy is available at:


Sarum Biosciences are working to develop
healthcare solutions
from naturally occuring bacteriophage
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