Pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics of phage therapy: a major hurdle to clinical translation

Sue C. Nang, Yu-Wei Lin, Aleksandra Petrovic Fabijan, Rachel Y.K. Chang, Gauri G. Rao, Jonathan Iredell, Hak Kim Chan, Jian Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The increasing emergence of antimicrobial resistance worldwide has led to renewed interest in phage therapy. Unlike antibiotics, the lack of pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) information represents a major challenge for phage therapy. As therapeutic phages are biological entities with the ability to self-replicate in the presence of susceptible bacteria, their PK/PD is far more complicated than that of antibiotics. Objectives: This narrative review examines the current literature on phage pharmacology and highlights major pharmacological challenges for phage therapy. Sources: Included articles were identified by searching PubMed and Google Scholar till June 2022. The search terms were ‘bacteriophage’, ‘antimicrobial’, ‘pharmacokinetics’ and ‘pharmacodynamics’. Additional relevant references were obtained from articles retrieved from the primary search. Content: In this review, phage PK is first discussed, focusing on absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination. Key factors affecting phage antimicrobial activities are reviewed, including multiplicity of infection, passive and active phage therapy, and the involvement of the human immune system. Importantly, we emphasize the impact of phage self-replication on the PK/PD and the fundamental phage characteristics that are required for PK/PD modelling and clinical translation. Implications: Recent progress in phage pharmacology has shown that we are in a far better position now to treat infections with phage therapy than a century ago. However, phage therapy is still in its infancy when compared to antibiotics due to the scarce pharmacological knowledge (e.g. PK/PD). Optimization of phage PK/PD is key for translation of phage therapy in patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-709
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Antimicrobial
  • Bacteriophage
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Self-replication

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