Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Bacteriophage


Human noroviruses (NoV) are the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide. Epidemiological studies of outbreaks have suggested that vomiting facilitates transmission of human NoV, but there have been no laboratory-based studies characterizing the degree of NoV release during a vomiting event. The purpose of this work was to demonstrate that virus aerosolization occurs in a simulated vomiting event, and to estimate the amount of virus that is released in those aerosols. A simulated vomiting device was constructed at one-quarter scale of the human body following similitude principles. Simulated vomitus matrices at low (6.24 mPa*s) and high (177.5 mPa*s) viscosities were inoculated with low (108 PFU/mL) and high (1010 PFU/mL) concentrations of bacteriophage MS2 and placed in the artificial “stomach” of the device, which was then subjected to scaled physiologically relevant pressures associated with vomiting. Bio aerosols were captured using an SKC Biosampler. In low viscosity artificial vomitus, there were notable differences between recovered aerosolized MS2 as a function of pressure (i.e., greater aerosolization with increased pressure), although this was not always statistically significant. This relationship disappeared when using high viscosity simulated vomitus. The amount of MS2 aerosolized as a percent of total virus “vomited” ranged from 7.2 x 10-5 to 2.67 x 10-2 (which corresponded to a range of 36 to 13,350 PFU total). To our knowledge, this is the first study to document and measure aerosolization of a NoV surrogate in a similitude-based physical model. This has implications for better understanding the transmission dynamics of human NoV and for risk modeling purposes, both of which can help in designing effective infection control measures.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Microbiology, Virus, Bacteriophage, Vomiting, Gastroenteritis, Norovirus, Nausea


Mucosal surfaces are a main entry point for pathogens and the principal sites of defense against infection. Both bacteria and phage are associated with this mucus. Here we show that phage-to-bacteria ratios were increased, relative to the adjacent environment, on all mucosal surfaces sampled, ranging from cnidarians to humans. In vitro studies of tissue culture cells with and without surface mucus demonstrated that this increase in phage abundance is mucus dependent and protects the underlying epithelium from bacterial infection. Enrichment of phage in mucus occurs via binding interactions between mucin glycoproteins and Ig-like protein domains exposed on phage capsids. In particular, phage Ig-like domains bind variable glycan residues that coat the mucin glycoprotein component of mucus. Metagenomic analysis found these Ig-like proteins present in the phages sampled from many environments, particularly from locations adjacent to mucosal surfaces. Based on these observations, we present the bacteriophage adherence to mucus model that provides a ubiquitous, but non-host-derived, immunity applicable to mucosal surfaces. The model suggests that metazoan mucosal surfaces and phage coevolve to maintain phage adherence. This benefits the metazoan host by limiting mucosal bacteria, and benefits the phage through more frequent interactions with bacterial hosts. The relationships shown here suggest a symbiotic relationship between phage and metazoan hosts that provides a previously unrecognized antimicrobial defense that actively protects mucosal surfaces.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, DNA, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Bacteriophage


To use a MS2 bacteriophage model to compare three hand-drying methods, paper towels (PT), a warm air dryer (WAD) and a jet air dryer (JAD), for their potential to disperse viruses and contaminate the immediate environment during use.

Concepts: Microbiology, Virus, RNA, Bacteriophage, Bacteriophage MS2


Studying the coevolutionary dynamics between bacteria and the bacteriophage viruses that infect them is critical to understanding both microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning. Phages can play a key role in shaping bacterial population dynamics and can significantly alter both intra- and inter-specific competition among bacterial hosts. Predicting how phages might influence community stability and apparent competition, however, requires an understanding of how bacteria-phage interaction networks evolve as a function of host diversity and community dynamics. Here, we first review the progress that has been made in understanding phage specificity, including the use of experimental evolution, we then introduce a new dataset on natural bacteriophages collected from the phyllosphere of horse chestnut trees, and finally we highlight that bacterial sensitivity to phage is rarely a binary trait and that this variation should be taken into account and reported. We emphasize that there is currently insufficient evidence to make broad generalizations about phage host range in natural populations, the limits of phage adaptation to novel hosts, or the implications of phage specificity in shaping microbial communities. However, the combination of experimental and genomic approaches with the study of natural communities will allow new insight to the evolution and impact of phage specificity within complex bacterial communities.

Concepts: DNA, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Genome, Bacteriophage


The clinical relevance of nosocomially acquired infections caused by multi-resistant Achromobacter strains is rapidly increasing. Here, a diverse set of 61 Achromobacter xylosoxidans strains was characterized by MultiLocus Sequence Typing and Phenotype MicroArray technology. The strains were further analyzed in regard to their susceptibility to 35 antibiotics and to 34 different and newly isolated bacteriophages from the environment. A large proportion of strains were resistant against numerous antibiotics such as cephalosporines, aminoglycosides and quinolones, whereas piperacillin-tazobactam, ticarcillin, mezlocillin and imipenem were still inhibitory. We also present the first expanded study on bacteriophages of the genus Achromobacter that has been so far a blank slate with respect to phage research. The phages were isolated mainly from several waste water treatment plants in Germany. Morphological analysis of all of these phages by electron microscopy revealed a broad diversity with different members of the order Caudovirales, including the families Siphoviridae, Myoviridae, and Podoviridae. A broad spectrum of different host ranges could be determined for several phages that lysed up to 24 different and in part highly antibiotic resistant strains. Molecular characterisation by DNA restriction analysis revealed that all phages contain linear double-stranded DNA. Their restriction patterns display distinct differences underlining their broad diversity.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Antibiotic resistance, Bacteriophage, Phage therapy, Caudovirales


Bacteriophages are the most abundant biological entities on the planet, playing crucial roles in the shaping of bacterial populations. Phages have smaller genomes than their bacterial hosts, yet there are currently fewer fully sequenced phage than bacterial genomes. We assessed the suitability of Illumina technology for high-throughput sequencing and subsequent assembly of phage genomes. In silico datasets reveal that 30× coverage is sufficient to correctly assemble the complete genome of ~98.5% of known phages, with experimental data confirming that the majority of phage genomes can be assembled at 30× coverage. Furthermore, in silico data demonstrate it is possible to co-sequence multiple phages from different hosts, without introducing assembly errors.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Virus, Genome, Biotechnology, Bacteriophage, Plasmid


Increasing prevalence and severity of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections has necessitated novel antibacterial strategies. Ideally, new approaches would target bacterial pathogens while exerting selection for reduced pathogenesis when these bacteria inevitably evolve resistance to therapeutic intervention. As an example of such a management strategy, we isolated a lytic bacteriophage, OMKO1, (family Myoviridae) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that utilizes the outer membrane porin M (OprM) of the multidrug efflux systems MexAB and MexXY as a receptor-binding site. Results show that phage selection produces an evolutionary trade-off in MDR P. aeruginosa, whereby the evolution of bacterial resistance to phage attack changes the efflux pump mechanism, causing increased sensitivity to drugs from several antibiotic classes. Although modern phage therapy is still in its infancy, we conclude that phages, such as OMKO1, represent a new approach to phage therapy where bacteriophages exert selection for MDR bacteria to become increasingly sensitive to traditional antibiotics. This approach, using phages as targeted antibacterials, could extend the lifetime of our current antibiotics and potentially reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistant infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Virus, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacteriophage, Phage therapy, Antibiotic


With an increase in cases of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, alternative and adjunct treatments are needed, leading to renewed interest in bacteriophage therapy. There have been few clinically relevant studies of phage therapy against chronic lung infections. Using a novel murine model that uses a natural respiratory inhalation route of infection, we show that phage therapy is an effective treatment against chronic P. aeruginosa lung infections. We also show efficacy against P. aeruginosa in a biofilm-associated cystic fibrosis lung-like environment. These studies demonstrate the potential for phage therapy in the treatment of established and recalcitrant chronic respiratory tract infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Opportunistic infection, Therapy, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Cystic fibrosis, Bacteriophage, Phage therapy


Here we present vB_BanS-Tsamsa, a novel temperate phage isolated from Bacillus anthracis, the agent responsible for anthrax infections in wildlife, livestock and humans. Tsamsa phage is a giant siphovirus (order Caudovirales), featuring a long, flexible and non-contractile tail of 440 nm (not including baseplate structure) and an isometric head of 82 nm in diameter. We induced Tsamsa phage in samples from two different carcass sites in Etosha National Park, Namibia. The Tsamsa phage genome is the largest sequenced Bacillus siphovirus, containing 168,876 bp and 272 ORFs. The genome features an integrase/recombinase enzyme, indicative of a temperate lifestyle. Among bacterial strains tested, the phage infected only certain members of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group (B. anthracis, B. cereus and B. thuringiensis) and exhibited moderate specificity for B. anthracis. Tsamsa lysed seven out of 25 B. cereus strains, two out of five B. thuringiensis strains and six out of seven B. anthracis strains tested. It did not lyse B. anthracis PAK-1, an atypical strain that is also resistant to both gamma phage and cherry phage. The Tsamsa endolysin features a broader lytic spectrum than the phage host range, indicating possible use of the enzyme in Bacillus biocontrol.

Concepts: Bacteria, Bacteriophage, Bacillus, Antibiotic, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bacillus anthracis, Bacillaceae, Bacilli


Bacteriophages (or phages) are the most abundant biological entities on earth, and are estimated to outnumber their bacterial prey by tenfold. The constant threat of phage predation has led to the evolution of a broad range of bacterial immunity mechanisms that in turn result in the evolution of diverse phage immune evasion strategies, leading to a dynamic co-evolutionary arms race. Although bacterial innate immune mechanisms against phage abound, the only documented bacterial adaptive immune system is the CRISPR/Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated proteins) system, which provides sequence-specific protection from invading nucleic acids, including phage. Here we show a remarkable turn of events, in which a phage-encoded CRISPR/Cas system is used to counteract a phage inhibitory chromosomal island of the bacterial host. A successful lytic infection by the phage is dependent on sequence identity between CRISPR spacers and the target chromosomal island. In the absence of such targeting, the phage-encoded CRISPR/Cas system can acquire new spacers to evolve rapidly and ensure effective targeting of the chromosomal island to restore phage replication.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Bacteria, Virus, Innate immune system, Adaptive immune system, Bacteriophage, Lysogenic cycle