Caister Academic Press

Phage Therapy: The Pharmacology of Antibacterial Viruses

Katarzyna Danis-Wlodarczyk, Krystyna Dąbrowska and Stephen T. Abedon
from: Bacterial Viruses: Exploitation for Biocontrol and Therapeutics (Edited by: Aidan Coffey and Colin Buttimer). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2020) Pages: 49-132.


Open-access article
Pharmacology can be differentiated into two key aspects, pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacodynamics describes a drug's impact on the body while pharmacokinetics describes the body's impact on a drug. Another way of understanding these terms is that pharmacodynamics is a description of both the positive and negative consequences of drugs attaining certain concentrations in the body while pharmacokinetics is concerned with our ability to reach and then sustain those concentrations. Unlike the drugs for which these concepts were developed, including antibiotics, the bacteriophages (or 'phages') that we consider here are not chemotherapeutics but instead are the viruses of bacteria. Here we review the pharmacology of these viruses, particularly as they can be employed to combat bacterial infections (phage therapy). Overall, an improved pharmacological understanding of phage therapy should allow for more informed development of phages as antibacterial 'drugs', allow for more rational post hoc debugging of phage therapy experiments, and encourage improved design of phage therapy protocols. Contrasting with antibiotics, however, phages as viruses impact individual bacterial cells as single virions rather than as swarms of molecules, and while they are killing bacteria, bacteriophages also can amplify phage numbers, in situ. Explorations of phage therapy pharmacology consequently can often be informed as well by basic principles of the ecological interactions between phages and bacteria as by study of the pharmacology of drugs. Bacteriophages in phage therapy thus can display somewhat unique as well as more traditional pharmacological aspects, as we consider here.
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