Phages and their potential to modulate the microbiome and immunity

Sara Federici, Samuel P. Nobs, Eran Elinav

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bacteriophages (hence termed phages) are viruses that target bacteria and have long been considered as potential future treatments against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. However, the molecular nature of phage interactions with bacteria and the human host has remained elusive for decades, limiting their therapeutic application. While many phages and their functional repertoires remain unknown, the advent of next-generation sequencing has increasingly enabled researchers to decode new lytic and lysogenic mechanisms by which they attack and destroy bacteria. Furthermore, the last decade has witnessed a renewed interest in the utilization of phages as therapeutic vectors and as a means of targeting pathogenic or commensal bacteria or inducing immunomodulation. Importantly, the narrow host range, immense antibacterial repertoire, and ease of manipulating phages may potentially allow for their use as targeted modulators of pathogenic, commensal and pathobiont members of the microbiome, thereby impacting mammalian physiology and immunity along mucosal surfaces in health and in microbiome-associated diseases. In this review, we aim to highlight recent advances in phage biology and how a mechanistic understanding of phage-bacteria-host interactions may facilitate the development of novel phage-based therapeutics. We provide an overview of the challenges of the therapeutic use of phages and how these could be addressed for future use of phages as specific modulators of the human microbiome in a variety of infectious and noncommunicable human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-904
Number of pages16
JournalCellular and Molecular Immunology
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2020


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