The safety and toxicity of phage therapy: A review of animal and clinical studies

Dan Liu, Jonas D. Van Belleghem, Christiaan R. de Vries, Elizabeth Burgener, Qingquan Chen, Robert Manasherob, Jenny R. Aronson, Derek F. Amanatullah, Pranita D. Tamma, Gina A. Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Increasing rates of infection by antibiotic resistant bacteria have led to a resurgence of interest in bacteriophage (phage) therapy. Several phage therapy studies in animals and humans have been completed over the last two decades. We conducted a systematic review of safety and toxicity data associated with phage therapy in both animals and humans reported in English language publications from 2008–2021. Overall, 69 publications met our eligibility criteria including 20 animal studies, 35 clinical case reports or case series, and 14 clinical trials. After summarizing safety and toxicity data from these publications, we discuss potential approaches to optimize safety and toxicity monitoring with the therapeutic use of phage moving forward. In our systematic review of the literature, we found some adverse events associated with phage therapy, but serious events were extremely rare. Comprehensive and standardized reporting of potential toxicities associated with phage therapy has generally been lacking in the published literature. Structured safety and tolerability endpoints are necessary when phages are administered as anti-infective therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1268
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Animal models
  • Clinical trials
  • Immune activation
  • Phage therapy
  • Safety and toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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