Reviews

Issue: Mind-altering microbes

10 February 2015 article

Phage Therapy: Current Research and Applications

EDITED BY J. BORYSOWSKI, R. MIEDZYBRODZKI & A. GÓRSKI
CAISTER ACADEMIC PRESS (2014)
£180.00 ISBN 978-1908230409

Viruses have been reported to infect numerous phyla of bacteria, including many bacteria that cause human disease. Replication of most of these bacterial viruses results in destruction of the host cell by lysis. This is why these viruses were originally termed "bacteriophages" – bacterial "eaters". Unlike mammalian cells, bacteria possess rigid cell walls so these bacteriophages have had to evolve efficient means to lyse their host cells in order to facilitate the exit of progeny bacteriophages, allowing them to infect new hosts. Shortly after their discovery, it was suggested that bacteriophages might be exploited for the treatment of bacterial diseases and numerous studies have been carried out, particularly in Eastern Europe. The discovery and use of "small molecule" antibiotics has taken the focus away from the development of bacteriophages; however, with the ever-increasing problem of resistance to conventional antibiotics, interest in the potential of bacteriophages has grown. This book describes the characteristics of bacteriophages, more theoretical aspects of their use as antibacterial agents, the need to select the most appropriate one and the issues of the resistance of bacteria to them. It also presents the intellectual and regulatory issues, the use of animal models of human disease and the results of clinical trials. In addition, this book discusses the modification of bacteriophages so that they kill bacteria without lysing them and releasing toxic bacterial products into the body, thus rendering them safer, to extend their host range to a larger number of pathogens and to use them as delivery vehicles for therapeutic genes.

The issue of resistance to conventional antibiotics should encourage the development of novel treatments for bacterial infection and the use of bacteriophages that have evolved over millions of years to kill their hosts is an obvious choice. This book effectively presents the current situation and points us to future developments. The book will be of interest to those in the fields of medicine, infectious disease and antimicrobial drug development, whether they be students or experienced researchers or practitioners. Unfortunately, the £180 purchase price means that it is only likely to be within the budget of institutions.

CHRISTOPHER RING

Middlesex University