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1.  Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Yersinia pestis Using Amplification of Plague Diagnostic Bacteriophages Monitored by Real-Time PCR 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11337.
Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague, has caused many millions of human deaths and still poses a serious threat to global public health. Timely and reliable detection of such a dangerous pathogen is of critical importance. Lysis by specific bacteriophages remains an essential method of Y. pestis detection and plague diagnostics.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The objective of this work was to develop an alternative to conventional phage lysis tests – a rapid and highly sensitive method of indirect detection of live Y. pestis cells based on quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) monitoring of amplification of reporter Y. pestis-specific bacteriophages. Plague diagnostic phages ϕA1122 and L-413C were shown to be highly effective diagnostic tools for the detection and identification of Y. pestis by using qPCR with primers specific for phage DNA. The template DNA extraction step that usually precedes qPCR was omitted. ϕA1122-specific qPCR enabled the detection of an initial bacterial concentration of 103 CFU/ml (equivalent to as few as one Y. pestis cell per 1-µl sample) in four hours. L-413C-mediated detection of Y. pestis was less sensitive (up to 100 bacteria per sample) but more specific, and thus we propose parallel qPCR for the two phages as a rapid and reliable method of Y. pestis identification. Importantly, ϕA1122 propagated in simulated clinical blood specimens containing EDTA and its titer rise was detected by both a standard plating test and qPCR.
Thus, we developed a novel assay for detection and identification of Y. pestis using amplification of specific phages monitored by qPCR. The method is simple, rapid, highly sensitive, and specific and allows the detection of only live bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2893161  PMID: 20596528
2.  Diagnostic Bioluminescent Phage for Detection of Yersinia pestis▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(12):3887-3894.
Yersinia pestis is the etiological agent of the plague. Because of the disease's inherent communicability, rapid clinical course, and high mortality, it is critical that an outbreak, whether it is natural or deliberate, be detected and diagnosed quickly. The objective of this research was to generate a recombinant luxAB (“light”)-tagged reporter phage that can detect Y. pestis by rapidly and specifically conferring a bioluminescent signal response to these cells. The bacterial luxAB reporter genes were integrated into a noncoding region of the CDC plague-diagnostic phage φA1122 by homologous recombination. The identity and fitness of the recombinant phage were assessed through PCR analysis and lysis assays and functionally verified by the ability to transduce a bioluminescent signal to recipient cells. The reporter phage conferred a bioluminescent phenotype to Y. pestis within 12 min of infection at 28°C. The signal response time and signal strength were dependent on the number of cells present. A positive signal was obtained from 102 cells within 60 min. A signal response was not detectable with Escherichia coli, although a weak signal (100-fold lower than that with Y. pestis) was obtained with 1 (of 10) Yersinia enterocolitica strains and 2 (of 10) Yersinia pseudotuberculosis strains at the restrictive temperature. Importantly, serum did not prevent the ability of the reporter phage to infect Y. pestis, nor did it significantly quench the resulting bioluminescent signal. Collectively, the results indicate that the reporter phage displays promise for the rapid and specific diagnostic detection of cultivated Y. pestis isolates or infected clinical specimens.
PMCID: PMC2786668  PMID: 19828743
3.  Application of bacteriophages for detection of foodborne pathogens 
Bacteriophage  2014;4:e28137.
Bacterial contamination of food products presents a challenge for the food industry and poses a high risk for the consumer. Despite increasing awareness and improved hygiene measures, foodborne pathogens remain a threat for public health, and novel methods for detection of these organisms are needed. Bacteriophages represent ideal tools for diagnostic assays because of their high target cell specificity, inherent signal-amplifying properties, easy and inexpensive production, and robustness. Every stage of the phage lytic multiplication cycle, from the initial recognition of the host cell to the final lysis event, may be harnessed in several ways for the purpose of bacterial detection. Besides intact phage particles, phage-derived affinity molecules such as cell wall binding domains and receptor binding proteins can serve for this purpose. This review provides an overview of existing phage-based technologies for detection of foodborne pathogens, and highlights the most recent developments in this field, with particular emphasis on phage-based biosensors.
PMCID: PMC3919822  PMID: 24533229
foodborne pathogens; bacterial detection; diagnostics; reporter phage; biosensor; phage amplification; cell wall binding domain; receptor binding protein
4.  Mutated and Bacteriophage T4 Nanoparticle Arrayed F1-V Immunogens from Yersinia pestis as Next Generation Plague Vaccines 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003495.
Pneumonic plague is a highly virulent infectious disease with 100% mortality rate, and its causative organism Yersinia pestis poses a serious threat for deliberate use as a bioterror agent. Currently, there is no FDA approved vaccine against plague. The polymeric bacterial capsular protein F1, a key component of the currently tested bivalent subunit vaccine consisting, in addition, of low calcium response V antigen, has high propensity to aggregate, thus affecting its purification and vaccine efficacy. We used two basic approaches, structure-based immunogen design and phage T4 nanoparticle delivery, to construct new plague vaccines that provided complete protection against pneumonic plague. The NH2-terminal β-strand of F1 was transplanted to the COOH-terminus and the sequence flanking the β-strand was duplicated to eliminate polymerization but to retain the T cell epitopes. The mutated F1 was fused to the V antigen, a key virulence factor that forms the tip of the type three secretion system (T3SS). The F1mut-V protein showed a dramatic switch in solubility, producing a completely soluble monomer. The F1mut-V was then arrayed on phage T4 nanoparticle via the small outer capsid protein, Soc. The F1mut-V monomer was robustly immunogenic and the T4-decorated F1mut-V without any adjuvant induced balanced TH1 and TH2 responses in mice. Inclusion of an oligomerization-deficient YscF, another component of the T3SS, showed a slight enhancement in the potency of F1-V vaccine, while deletion of the putative immunomodulatory sequence of the V antigen did not improve the vaccine efficacy. Both the soluble (purified F1mut-V mixed with alhydrogel) and T4 decorated F1mut-V (no adjuvant) provided 100% protection to mice and rats against pneumonic plague evoked by high doses of Y. pestis CO92. These novel platforms might lead to efficacious and easily manufacturable next generation plague vaccines.
Author Summary
Plague caused by Yersinia pestis is a deadly disease that wiped out one-third of Europe's population in the 14th century. The organism is listed by the CDC as Tier-1 biothreat agent, and currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine against this pathogen. Stockpiling of an efficacious plague vaccine that could protect people against a potential bioterror attack has been a national priority. The current vaccines based on the capsular antigen (F1) and the low calcium response V antigen, are promising against both bubonic and pneumonic plague. However, the polymeric nature of F1 with its propensity to aggregate affects vaccine efficacy and generates varied immune responses in humans. We have addressed a series of concerns and generated mutants of F1 and V, which are completely soluble and produced in high yields. We then engineered the vaccine into a novel delivery platform using the bacteriophage T4 nanoparticle. The nanoparticle vaccines induced robust immunogenicity and provided 100% protection to mice and rats against pneumonic plague. These highly efficacious new generation plague vaccines are easily manufactured, and the potent T4 platform which can simultaneously incorporate antigens from other biothreat or emerging infectious agents provides a convenient way for mass vaccination of humans against multiple pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3708895  PMID: 23853602
5.  The habits of highly effective phages: population dynamics as a framework for identifying therapeutic phages 
The use of bacteriophages as antibacterial agents is being actively researched on a global scale. Typically, the phages used are isolated from the wild by plating on the bacteria of interest, and a far larger set of candidate phages is often available than can be used in any application. When an excess of phages is available, how should the best phages be identified? Here we consider phage-bacterial population dynamics as a basis for evaluating and predicting phage success. A central question is whether the innate dynamical properties of phages are the determinants of success, or instead, whether extrinsic, indirect effects can be responsible. We address the dynamical perspective, motivated in part by the absence of dynamics in previously suggested principles of phage therapy. Current mathematical models of bacterial-phage dynamics do not capture the realities of in vivo dynamics, nor is this likely to change, but they do give insight to qualitative properties that may be generalizable. In particular, phage adsorption rate may be critical to treatment success, so understanding the effects of the in vivo environment on host availability may allow prediction of useful phages prior to in vivo experimentation. Principles for predicting efficacy may be derived by developing a greater understanding of the in vivo system, or such principles could be determined empirically by comparing phages with known differences in their dynamic properties. The comparative approach promises to be a powerful method of discovering the key to phage success. We offer five recommendations for future study: (i) compare phages differing in treatment efficacy to identify the phage properties associated with success, (ii) assay dynamics in vivo, (iii) understand mechanisms of bacterial escape from phages, (iv) test phages in model infections that are relevant to the intended clinical applications, and (v) develop new classes of models for phage growth in spatially heterogeneous environments.
PMCID: PMC4235362  PMID: 25477869
bacteriophage; phage therapy; mathematical model; population dynamics; bacterial infections
6.  Lysis-deficient phages as novel therapeutic agents for controlling bacterial infection 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:195.
Interest in phage therapy has grown over the past decade due to the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens. However, the use of bacteriophages for therapeutic purposes has raised concerns over the potential for immune response, rapid toxin release by the lytic action of phages, and difficulty in dose determination in clinical situations. A phage that kills the target cell but is incapable of host cell lysis would alleviate these concerns without compromising efficacy.
We developed a recombinant lysis-deficient Staphylococcus aureus phage P954, in which the endolysin gene was rendered nonfunctional by insertional inactivation. P954, a temperate phage, was lysogenized in S. aureus strain RN4220. The native endolysin gene on the prophage was replaced with an endolysin gene disrupted by the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (cat) gene through homologous recombination using a plasmid construct. Lysogens carrying the recombinant phage were detected by growth in presence of chloramphenicol. Induction of the recombinant prophage did not result in host cell lysis, and the phage progeny were released by cell lysis with glass beads. The recombinant phage retained the endolysin-deficient genotype and formed plaques only when endolysin was supplemented. The host range of the recombinant phage was the same as that of the parent phage. To test the in vivo efficacy of the recombinant endolysin-deficient phage, immunocompromised mice were challenged with pathogenic S. aureus at a dose that results in 80% mortality (LD80). Treatment with the endolysin-deficient phage rescued mice from the fatal S. aureus infection.
A recombinant endolysin-deficient staphylococcal phage has been developed that is lethal to methicillin-resistant S. aureus without causing bacterial cell lysis. The phage was able to multiply in lytic mode utilizing a heterologous endolysin expressed from a plasmid in the propagation host. The recombinant phage effectively rescued mice from fatal S. aureus infection. To our knowledge this is the first report of a lysis-deficient staphylococcal phage.
PMCID: PMC3224134  PMID: 21880144
7.  The Tripartite Associations between Bacteriophage, Wolbachia, and Arthropods 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(5):e43.
By manipulating arthropod reproduction worldwide, the heritable endosymbiont Wolbachia has spread to pandemic levels. Little is known about the microbial basis of cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) except that bacterial densities and percentages of infected sperm cysts associate with incompatibility strength. The recent discovery of a temperate bacteriophage (WO-B) of Wolbachia containing ankyrin-encoding genes and virulence factors has led to intensifying debate that bacteriophage WO-B induces CI. However, current hypotheses have not considered the separate roles that lytic and lysogenic phage might have on bacterial fitness and phenotype. Here we describe a set of quantitative approaches to characterize phage densities and its associations with bacterial densities and CI. We enumerated genome copy number of phage WO-B and Wolbachia and CI penetrance in supergroup A- and B-infected males of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. We report several findings: (1) variability in CI strength for A-infected males is positively associated with bacterial densities, as expected under the bacterial density model of CI, (2) phage and bacterial densities have a significant inverse association, as expected for an active lytic infection, and (3) CI strength and phage densities are inversely related in A-infected males; similarly, males expressing incomplete CI have significantly higher phage densities than males expressing complete CI. Ultrastructural analyses indicate that approximately 12% of the A Wolbachia have phage particles, and aggregations of these particles can putatively occur outside the Wolbachia cell. Physical interactions were observed between approximately 16% of the Wolbachia cells and spermatid tails. The results support a low to moderate frequency of lytic development in Wolbachia and an overall negative density relationship between bacteriophage and Wolbachia. The findings motivate a novel phage density model of CI in which lytic phage repress Wolbachia densities and therefore reproductive parasitism. We conclude that phage, Wolbachia, and arthropods form a tripartite symbiotic association in which all three are integral to understanding the biology of this widespread endosymbiosis. Clarifying the roles of lytic and lysogenic phage development in Wolbachia biology will effectively structure inquiries into this research topic.
Symbiotic bacteria that are maternally inherited are widespread in terrestrial invertebrates. Such bacteria infect the cells of reproductive tissues and can have important evolutionary and developmental effects on the host. Often these inherited symbionts develop beneficial relationships with their hosts, but some species can also selfishly alter invertebrate reproduction to increase the numbers of infected females (the transmitting sex of the bacteria) in the population. Bacterial-mediated distortions such as male-killing, feminization, parthenogenesis induction, and cytoplasmic incompatibility are collectively known as “reproductive parasitism.” In this article, the investigators show that the associations between the most common reproductive parasite in the biosphere (Wolbachia) and a parasitic wasp host are affected by a mobile element—a temperate bacteriophage of Wolbachia. In contrast to recent reports that suggest bacteriophage WO-B may induce reproductive parasitism, the authors' quantitative and ultrastructural analyses indicate that lytic phage WO-B are lethal and therefore associate with a reduction in both Wolbachia densities and reproductive parasitism. Based on these data, the authors propose a phage density model in which lytic phage development specifically leads to a reduction, rather than induction, of reproductive parisitism. The study is among the first investigations to show that lytic bacteriophage inversely associate with the densities and phenotype of an obligate intracellular bacterium.
PMCID: PMC1463016  PMID: 16710453
8.  Propionibacterium acnes Bacteriophages Display Limited Genetic Diversity and Broad Killing Activity against Bacterial Skin Isolates 
mBio  2012;3(5):e00279-12.
Investigation of the human microbiome has revealed diverse and complex microbial communities at distinct anatomic sites. The microbiome of the human sebaceous follicle provides a tractable model in which to study its dominant bacterial inhabitant, Propionibacterium acnes, which is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of the human disease acne. To explore the diversity of the bacteriophages that infect P. acnes, 11 P. acnes phages were isolated from the sebaceous follicles of donors with healthy skin or acne and their genomes were sequenced. Comparative genomic analysis of the P. acnes phage population, which spans a 30-year temporal period and a broad geographic range, reveals striking similarity in terms of genome length, percent GC content, nucleotide identity (>85%), and gene content. This was unexpected, given the far-ranging diversity observed in virtually all other phage populations. Although the P. acnes phages display a broad host range against clinical isolates of P. acnes, two bacterial isolates were resistant to many of these phages. Moreover, the patterns of phage resistance correlate closely with the presence of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat elements in the bacteria that target a specific subset of phages, conferring a system of prokaryotic innate immunity. The limited diversity of the P. acnes bacteriophages, which may relate to the unique evolutionary constraints imposed by the lipid-rich anaerobic environment in which their bacterial hosts reside, points to the potential utility of phage-based antimicrobial therapy for acne.
Propionibacterium acnes is a dominant member of the skin microflora and has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of acne; however, little is known about the bacteriophages that coexist with and infect this bacterium. Here we present the novel genome sequences of 11 P. acnes phages, thereby substantially increasing the amount of available genomic information for this phage population. Surprisingly, we find that, unlike other well-studied bacteriophages, P. acnes phages are highly homogeneous and show a striking lack of genetic diversity, which is perhaps related to their unique and restricted habitat. They also share a broad ability to kill clinical isolates of P. acnes; phage resistance is not prevalent, but when detected, it appears to be conferred by chromosomally encoded immunity elements within the host genome. We believe that these phages display numerous features that would make them ideal candidates for the development of a phage-based therapy for acne.
PMCID: PMC3448167  PMID: 23015740
9.  Synonymous codon usage in forty staphylococcal phages identifies the factors controlling codon usage variation and the phages suitable for phage therapy 
Bioinformation  2012;8(24):1187-1194.
The immergence and dissemination of multidrug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus in recent years have expedited the research on the discovery of novel anti-staphylococcal agents promptly. Bacteriophages have long been showing tremendous potentialities in curing the infections caused by various pathogenic bacteria including S. aureus. Thus far, only a few virulent bacteriophages, which do not carry any toxin-encoding gene but are capable of eradicating staphylococcal infections, were reported. Based on the codon usage analysis of sixteen S. aureus phages, previously three phages were suggested to be useful as the anti-staphylococcal agents. To search for additional S. aureus phages suitable for phage therapy, relative synonymous codon usage bias has been investigated in the protein-coding genes of forty new staphylococcal phages. All phages appeared to carry A and T ending codons. Several factors such as mutational pressure, translational selection and gene length seemed to be responsible for the codon usage variation in the phages. Codon usage indeed varied phage to phage. Of the phages, phages G1, Twort, 66 and Sap-2 may be extremely lytic in nature as majority of their genes possess high translational efficiency, indicating that these phages may be employed in curing staphylococcal infections.
PMCID: PMC3530870  PMID: 23275718
Staphylococcal phage; Synonymous codon usage; Translational selection; Mutational bias; Phage therapy
10.  Characterising the biology of novel lytic bacteriophages infecting multidrug resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae 
Virology Journal  2013;10:100.
Members of the genus Klebsiella are among the leading microbial pathogens associated with nosocomial infection. The increased incidence of antimicrobial resistance in these species has propelled the need for alternate/combination therapeutic regimens to aid clinical treatment. Bacteriophage therapy forms one of these alternate strategies.
Electron microscopy, burst size, host range, sensitivity of phage particles to temperature, chloroform, pH, and restriction digestion of phage DNA were used to characterize Klebsiella phages.
Results and conclusions
Of the 32 isolated phages eight belonged to the family Myoviridae, eight to the Siphoviridae whilst the remaining 16 belonged to the Podoviridae. The host range of these phages was characterised against 254 clinical Enterobacteriaceae strains including multidrug resistant Klebsiella isolates producing extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). Based on their lytic potential, six of the phages were further characterised for burst size, physicochemical properties and sensitivity to restriction endonuclease digestion. In addition, five were fully sequenced. Multiple phage-encoded host resistance mechanisms were identified. The Siphoviridae phage genomes (KP16 and KP36) contained low numbers of host restriction sites similar to the strategy found in T7-like phages (KP32). In addition, phage KP36 encoded its own DNA adenine methyltransferase. The φKMV-like KP34 phage was sensitive to all endonucleases used in this study. Dam methylation of KP34 DNA was detected although this was in the absence of an identifiable phage encoded methyltransferase. The Myoviridae phages KP15 and KP27 both carried Dam and Dcm methyltransferase genes and other anti-restriction mechanisms elucidated in previous studies. No other anti-restriction mechanisms were found, e.g. atypical nucleotides (hmC or glucosyl hmC), although Myoviridae phage KP27 encodes an unknown anti-restriction mechanism that needs further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3620542  PMID: 23537199
Bacteriophage; Klebsiella spp.; Multidrug resistance; Restriction endonuclease patterns; Myoviridae; Siphoviridae; Podoviridae
11.  Bacteriophage-Resistant Mutants in Yersinia pestis: Identification of Phage Receptors and Attenuation for Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25486.
Bacteriophages specific for Yersinia pestis are routinely used for plague diagnostics and could be an alternative to antibiotics in case of drug-resistant plague. A major concern of bacteriophage therapy is the emergence of phage-resistant mutants. The use of phage cocktails can overcome this problem but only if the phages exploit different receptors. Some phage-resistant mutants lose virulence and therefore should not complicate bacteriophage therapy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The purpose of this work was to identify Y. pestis phage receptors using site-directed mutagenesis and trans-complementation and to determine potential attenuation of phage-resistant mutants for mice. Six receptors for eight phages were found in different parts of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) inner and outer core. The receptor for R phage was localized beyond the LPS core. Most spontaneous and defined phage-resistant mutants of Y. pestis were attenuated, showing increase in LD50 and time to death. The loss of different LPS core biosynthesis enzymes resulted in the reduction of Y. pestis virulence and there was a correlation between the degree of core truncation and the impact on virulence. The yrbH and waaA mutants completely lost their virulence.
We identified Y. pestis receptors for eight bacteriophages. Nine phages together use at least seven different Y. pestis receptors that makes some of them promising for formulation of plague therapeutic cocktails. Most phage-resistant Y. pestis mutants become attenuated and thus should not pose a serious problem for bacteriophage therapy of plague. LPS is a critical virulence factor of Y. pestis.
PMCID: PMC3182234  PMID: 21980477
12.  A Multifaceted Study of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Shutdown by Virulent Podovirus LUZ19 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00061-13.
In contrast to the rapidly increasing knowledge on genome content and diversity of bacterial viruses, insights in intracellular phage development and its impact on bacterial physiology are very limited. We present a multifaceted study combining quantitative PCR (qPCR), microarray, RNA-seq, and two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-GE), to obtain a global overview of alterations in DNA, RNA, and protein content in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 cells upon infection with the strictly lytic phage LUZ19. Viral genome replication occurs in the second half of the phage infection cycle and coincides with degradation of the bacterial genome. At the RNA level, there is a sharp increase in viral mRNAs from 23 to 60% of all transcripts after 5 and 15 min of infection, respectively. Although microarray analysis revealed a complex pattern of bacterial up- and downregulated genes, the accumulation of viral mRNA clearly coincides with a general breakdown of abundant bacterial transcripts. Two-dimensional gel electrophoretic analyses shows no bacterial protein degradation during phage infection, and seven stress-related bacterial proteins appear. Moreover, the two most abundantly expressed early and late-early phage proteins, LUZ19 gene product 13 (Gp13) and Gp21, completely inhibit P. aeruginosa growth when expressed from a single-copy plasmid. Since Gp13 encodes a predicted GNAT acetyltransferase, this observation points at a crucial but yet unexplored level of posttranslational viral control during infection.
Massive genome sequencing has led to important insights into the enormous genetic diversity of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages). However, for nearly all known phages, information on the impact of the phage infection on host physiology and intracellular phage development is scarce. This aspect of phage research should be revitalized, as phages evolved genes which can shut down or redirect bacterial processes in a very efficient way, which can be exploited towards antibacterial design. In this context, we initiated a study of the human opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa under attack by one its most common predators, the Phikmvlikevirus. By analyzing various stages of infection at different levels, this study uncovers new features of phage infection, representing a cornerstone for future studies on members of this phage genus.
PMCID: PMC3604761  PMID: 23512961
13.  Soil-based systemic delivery and phyllosphere in vivo propagation of bacteriophages 
Bacteriophage  2012;2(4):215-224.
Soil-based root applications and attenuated bacterial strains were evaluated as means to enhance bacteriophage persistence on plants for bacterial disease control. In addition, the systemic nature of phage applied to tomato roots was also evaluated. Several experiments were conducted applying either single phages or phage mixtures specific for Ralstonia solanacearum, Xanthomonas perforans or X. euvesicatoria to soil surrounding tomato plants and measuring the persistence and translocation of the phages over time. In general, all phages persisted in the roots of treated plants and were detected in stems and leaves; although phage level varied and persistence in stems and leaves was at a much lower level compared with persistence in roots. Bacterial wilt control was typically best if the phage or phage mixtures were applied to the soil surrounding tomatoes at the time of inoculation, less effective if applied 3 days before inoculation, and ineffective if applied 3 days after inoculation. The use of an attenuated X. perforans strain was also evaluated to improve the persistence of phage populations on tomato leaf surfaces. In greenhouse and field experiments, foliar applications of an attenuated mutant X. perforans 91-118:∆OPGH strain prior to phage applications significantly improved phage persistence on tomato foliage compared with untreated tomato foliage. Both the soil-based bacteriophage delivery and the use of attenuated bacterial strains improved bacteriophage persistence on respective root and foliar tissues, with evidence of translocation with soil-based bacteriophage applications. Both strategies could lead to improved control of bacterial pathogens on plants.
PMCID: PMC3594209  PMID: 23532156
bacteriophage; biocontrol; phage; tomato
14.  Phages Preying on Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus thuringiensis: Past, Present and Future 
Viruses  2014;6(7):2623-2672.
Many bacteriophages (phages) have been widely studied due to their major role in virulence evolution of bacterial pathogens. However, less attention has been paid to phages preying on bacteria from the Bacillus cereus group and their contribution to the bacterial genetic pool has been disregarded. Therefore, this review brings together the main information for the B. cereus group phages, from their discovery to their modern biotechnological applications. A special focus is given to phages infecting Bacillus anthracis, B. cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis. These phages belong to the Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, Podoviridae and Tectiviridae families. For the sake of clarity, several phage categories have been made according to significant characteristics such as lifestyles and lysogenic states. The main categories comprise the transducing phages, phages with a chromosomal or plasmidial prophage state, γ-like phages and jumbo-phages. The current genomic characterization of some of these phages is also addressed throughout this work and some promising applications are discussed here.
PMCID: PMC4113786  PMID: 25010767
(bacterio)phages; Bacillus cereus group; Bacillus anthracis; Bacillus thuringiensis; transducing phages; chromosomal prophages; plasmidial prophages; jumbo-phages; Gamma-like phages
15.  Isolation and Characterization of a Virulent Bacteriophage AB1 of Acinetobacter baumannii 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:131.
Acinetobacter baumannii is an emerging nosocomial pathogen worldwide with increasing prevalence of multi-drug and pan-drug resistance. A. baumannii exists widely in natural environment, especially in health care settings, and has been shown difficult to be eradicated. Bacteriophages are often considered alternative agent for controlling bacterial infection and contamination. In this study, we described the isolation and characterization of one virulent bacteriophage AB1 capable of specifically infecting A. baumannii.
A virulent bacteriophage AB1, specific for infecting a clinical strain A. baumannii KD311, was first isolated from marine sediment sample. Restriction analysis indicated that phage AB1 was a dsDNA virus with an approximate genome size of 45.2 kb to 46.9 kb. Transmission electron microscopy showed that phage AB1 had an icosahedral head with a non-contractile tail and collar or whisker structures, and might be tentatively classified as a member of the Siphoviridae family. Proteomic pattern of phage AB1, generated by SDS-PAGE using purified phage particles, revealed five major bands and six minor bands with molecular weight ranging from 14 to 80 kilo-dalton. Also determined was the adsorption rate of phage AB1 to the host bacterium, which was significantly enhanced by addition of 10 mM CaCl2. In a single step growth test, phage AB1 was shown having a latent period of 18 minutes and a burst size of 409. Moreover, pH and thermal stability of phage AB1 were also investigated. At the optimal pH 6.0, 73.2% of phages survived after 60 min incubation at 50°C. When phage AB1 was used to infect four additional clinical isolates of A. baumannii, one clinical isolate of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa lab strains PAK and PAO1, none of the tested strains was found susceptible, indicating a relatively narrow host range for phage AB1.
Phage AB1 was capable of eliciting efficient lysis of A. baumannii, revealing its potential as a non-toxic sanitizer for controlling A. baumannii infection and contamination in both hospital and other public environments.
PMCID: PMC2874798  PMID: 20426877
16.  Landscape Phage as a Molecular Recognition Interface for Detection Devices 
Microelectronics journal  2008;39(2):202-207.
Filamentous phages are thread-shaped bacterial viruses. Their outer coat is a tube formed by thousands equal copies of the major coat protein pVIII. Libraries of random peptides fused to pVIII domains were used for selection of phages probes specific for a panel of test antigens and biological threat agents. Because the viral carrier in the phage borne bio-selective probes is infective, they can be cloned individually and propagated indefinitely without needs of their chemical synthesis or reconstructing. As a new bioselective material, landscape phages combine unique characteristics of affinity reagents and self assembling proteins. Biorecognition layers formed by the phage-derived probes bind biological agents with high affinity and specificity and generate detectable signals in analytical platforms. The performance of phage-derived materials as biorecognition interface was illustrated by detection of Bacillus anthracis spores and Salmonella typhimurium cells. With further refinement, the phage-derived analytical platforms for detecting and monitoring of numerous threat agents may be developed, since phage interface against any bacteria, virus or toxin may be readily selected from the landscape phage libraries. As an interface in the field-use detectors, they may be superior to antibodies, since they are inexpensive, highly specific and strong binders, resistant to high temperatures and environmental stresses.
PMCID: PMC2565273  PMID: 19190724
Biosensor; sensor; molecular recognition; interface; bacteriophage; landscape phage; phage display; phage library; Bacillus anthracis; Salmonella typhimurium; nanotechnology; ELISA; quartz crystal microbalance
17.  Shiga Toxin 2-Converting Bacteriophages Associated with Clonal Variability in Escherichia coli O157:H7 Strains of Human Origin Isolated from a Single Outbreak  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(8):4554-4562.
Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2)-converting bacteriophages induced from 49 strains of Escherichia coli O157:H7 isolated during a recent outbreak of enterocolitis in Spain were examined in an attempt to identify the variability due to the stx2-converting phages. The bacterial isolates were divided into low-, medium-, and high-phage-production groups on the basis of the number of phages released after mitomycin C induction. Low- and medium-phage-production isolates harbored two kinds of phages but released only one of them, whereas high-phage-production isolates harbored only one of the two phages. One of the phages, φSC370, which was detected only in the isolates with two phages, showed similarities with phage 933W. The second phage, φLC159, differed from φSC370 in morphology and DNA structure. When both phages were present in the same bacterial chromosome, as occurred in most of the isolates, only φSC370 was detected in the supernatants of the induced cultures. If φLC159 was released, its presence was masked by φSC370. When φSC370 was absent, large amounts of φLC159 were released, suggesting that there was some regulation of phage expression between the two phages. To our knowledge, this is the first description of clonal variability due to phage loss. The higher level of phage production was reflected in the larger amounts of Stx2 toxin produced by the cultures. Some relationship between phage production and the severity of symptoms was observed, and consequently these observations suggest that the virulence of the isolates studied could be related to the variability of the induced stx2-converting phages.
PMCID: PMC166033  PMID: 12874335
18.  Genome and Proteome of Campylobacter jejuni Bacteriophage NCTC 12673▿† 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(23):8265-8271.
Campylobacter jejuni continues to be the leading cause of bacterial food-borne illness worldwide, so improvements to current methods used for bacterial detection and disease prevention are needed. We describe here the genome and proteome of C. jejuni bacteriophage NCTC 12673 and the exploitation of its receptor-binding protein for specific bacterial detection. Remarkably, the 135-kb Myoviridae genome of NCTC 12673 differs greatly from any other proteobacterial phage genome described (including C. jejuni phages CP220 and CPt10) and instead shows closest homology to the cyanobacterial T4-related myophages. The phage genome contains 172 putative open reading frames, including 12 homing endonucleases, no visible means of packaging, and a putative trans-splicing intein. The phage DNA appears to be strongly associated with a protein that interfered with PCR amplification and estimation of the phage genome mass by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Identification and analyses of the receptor-binding protein (Gp48) revealed features common to the Salmonella enterica P22 phage tailspike protein, including the ability to specifically recognize a host organism. Bacteriophage receptor-binding proteins may offer promising alternatives for use in pathogen detection platforms.
PMCID: PMC3233066  PMID: 21965409
19.  Bacteriophage- based tests for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in clinical specimens: a systematic review and meta- analysis 
Sputum microscopy, the most important conventional test for tuberculosis, is specific in settings with high burden of tuberculosis and low prevalence of non tuberculous mycobacteria. However, the test lacks sensitivity. Although bacteriophage-based tests for tuberculosis have shown promising results, their overall accuracy has not been systematically evaluated.
We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to evaluate the accuracy of phage-based tests for the direct detection of M. tuberculosis in clinical specimens. To identify studies, we searched Medline, EMBASE, Web of science and BIOSIS, and contacted authors, experts and test manufacturers. Thirteen studies, all based on phage amplification method, met our inclusion criteria. Overall accuracy was evaluated using forest plots, summary receiver operating (SROC) curves, and subgroup analyses.
The data suggest that phage-based assays have high specificity (range 0.83 to 1.00), but modest and variable sensitivity (range 0.21 to 0.88). The sensitivity ranged between 0.29 and 0.87 among smear-positive, and 0.13 to 0.78 among smear-negative specimens. The specificity ranged between 0.60 and 0.88 among smear-positive and 0.89 to 0.99 among smear-negative specimens. SROC analyses suggest that overall accuracy of phage-based assays is slightly higher than smear microscopy in direct head-to-head comparisons.
Phage-based assays have high specificity but lower and variable sensitivity. Their performance characteristics are similar to sputum microscopy. Phage assays cannot replace conventional diagnostic tests such as microscopy and culture at this time. Further research is required to identify methods that can enhance the sensitivity of phage-based assays without compromising the high specificity.
PMCID: PMC1180828  PMID: 16022735
20.  Phage-induced diversification improves host evolvability 
Bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) are of key importance in ecological processes at scales from biofilms to biogeochemical cycles. Close interaction can lead to antagonistic coevolution of phage and their hosts. Selection pressures imposed by phage are often frequency-dependent, such that rare phenotypes are favoured; this occurs when infection depends on some form of genetic matching. Also, resistance to phage often affects host fitness by pleiotropy (whereby mutations conferring resistance affect the function of other traits) and/or direct costs of resistance mechanisms.
Here a simple model of bacteria and bacteriophage coevolving in a resource-limited chemostat is used to study the effect of coevolving phage on the evolution of bacterial hosts. Density-dependent mortality from phage predation limits the density of any single bacterial strain, preventing competitive exclusion by faster-growing strains. Thus multiple strains can coexist by partitioning resources and stable high diversity is created by negative frequency-dependent selection from phage. Standing bacterial diversity promotes adaptation in dynamic environments, since it increases the likelihood of a pre-existing genotype being suited to altered conditions. In addition, frequency-dependent selection for resistance creates transient local trade-offs between growth rate and resistance that allow bacterial strains to adapt across fitness valleys. Thus bacterial populations that (in the absence of phage) would have been trapped at sub-optimal local peaks in the adaptive landscape are able (in the presence of phage) to reach alternate higher peaks than could have been reached by mutation alone.
This study shows that reasonable assumptions for coevolution of bacteria and phage create conditions in which phage increase the evolutionary potential of their hosts. Thus phage, in contrast to their deleterious effects on individual host cells, can confer an evolutionary benefit to bacterial populations. These findings have implications for the role of phage in ecosystem processes, where they have mainly been considered as a mortality factor; these results suggest that on long timescales phage may actually increase bacterial productivity by aiding the evolution of faster-growing strains. Furthermore, these results suggest that the therapeutic use of phage to treat bacterial infections (phage therapy) could have unintended negative side-effects.
PMCID: PMC3605116  PMID: 23339571
21.  Bacteriophage Receptor Binding Protein Based Assays for the Simultaneous Detection of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69770.
Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are the most common bacterial causes of foodborne gastroenteritis which is occasionally followed by a debilitating neuropathy known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Rapid and specific detection of these pathogens is very important for effective control and quick treatment of infection. Most of the diagnostics available for these organisms are time consuming and require technical expertise with expensive instruments and reagents to perform. Bacteriophages bind to their host specifically through their receptor binding proteins (RBPs), which can be exploited for pathogen detection. We recently sequenced the genome of C. jejuni phage NCTC12673 and identified its putative host receptor binding protein, Gp047. In the current study, we localized the receptor binding domain to the C-terminal quarter of Gp047. CC-Gp047 could be produced recombinantly and was capable of agglutinating both C. jejuni and C. coli cells unlike the host range of the parent phage which is limited to a subset of C. jejuni isolates. The agglutination procedure could be performed within minutes on a glass slide at room temperature and was not hindered by the presence of buffers or nutrient media. This agglutination assay showed 100% specificity and the sensitivity was 95% for C. jejuni (n = 40) and 90% for C. coli (n = 19). CC-Gp047 was also expressed as a fusion with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Chimeric EGFP_CC-Gp047 was able to specifically label C. jejuni and C. coli cells in mixed cultures allowing for the detection of these pathogens by fluorescent microscopy. This study describes a simple and rapid method for the detection of C. jejuni and C. coli using engineered phage RBPs and offers a promising new diagnostics platform for healthcare and surveillance laboratories.
PMCID: PMC3715477  PMID: 23874996
22.  Abundant and Diverse Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat Spacers in Clostridium difficile Strains and Prophages Target Multiple Phage Types within This Pathogen 
mBio  2014;5(5):e01045-13.
Clostridium difficile is an important human-pathogenic bacterium causing antibiotic-associated nosocomial infections worldwide. Mobile genetic elements and bacteriophages have helped shape C. difficile genome evolution. In many bacteria, phage infection may be controlled by a form of bacterial immunity called the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) system. This uses acquired short nucleotide sequences (spacers) to target homologous sequences (protospacers) in phage genomes. C. difficile carries multiple CRISPR arrays, and in this paper we examine the relationships between the host- and phage-carried elements of the system. We detected multiple matches between spacers and regions in 31 C. difficile phage and prophage genomes. A subset of the spacers was located in prophage-carried CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR spacer profiles generated suggest that related phages would have similar host ranges. Furthermore, we show that C. difficile strains of the same ribotype could either have similar or divergent CRISPR contents. Both synonymous and nonsynonymous mutations in the protospacer sequences were identified, as well as differences in the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM), which could explain how phages escape this system. This paper illustrates how the distribution and diversity of CRISPR spacers in C. difficile, and its prophages, could modulate phage predation for this pathogen and impact upon its evolution and pathogenicity.
Clostridium difficile is a significant bacterial human pathogen which undergoes continual genome evolution, resulting in the emergence of new virulent strains. Phages are major facilitators of genome evolution in other bacterial species, and we use sequence analysis-based approaches in order to examine whether the CRISPR/Cas system could control these interactions across divergent C. difficile strains. The presence of spacer sequences in prophages that are homologous to phage genomes raises an extra level of complexity in this predator-prey microbial system. Our results demonstrate that the impact of phage infection in this system is widespread and that the CRISPR/Cas system is likely to be an important aspect of the evolutionary dynamics in C. difficile.
PMCID: PMC4173771  PMID: 25161187
23.  Identification and Characterization of a Peptide Affinity Reagent for Detection of Noroviruses in Clinical Samples 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(6):1803-1808.
Norovirus (NoV) is the most common agent of nonbacterial epidemic gastroenteritis and is estimated to cause 21 million cases of the disease in the United States annually. The antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) currently available for NoV diagnosis detect only certain strains and are approved for use in the United States only in epidemics where NoV is suspected. There is a clear need for simpler, more rapid, and more reliable diagnostic tools for the detection of NoV. In this study, phage display technology was used to screen a library of phage displaying random 12-mer peptides for those that bind to Norwalk virus virus-like particles (NV VLPs). Three phage clones displaying unique peptides were identified, and both the peptide-displaying phages and the peptides were confirmed to bind specifically to NV VLPs. The peptide displayed on phage clone NV-N-R5-1 was determined to bind to the protruding domain of the VP1 capsid protein. This phage also bound to NV VLPs seeded into NoV-negative stool with a limit of detection of 1.56 ng NV VLP. This value was comparable to monoclonal antibody (MAb) 3912, which is currently used in commercially available assays. Furthermore, the NV-N-R5-1 phage exhibited high specificity by detecting NV only in previously characterized NV-positive stool samples in contrast to no detection in NV-negative stool samples. These data demonstrate that the further development of NV-N-R5-1 phage as a diagnostic reagent is possible and might offer several distinct advantages over antibodies, such as decreases in the time and cost of production and ease of isolating phage against other epidemic strains currently circulating as well as those that are emerging.
PMCID: PMC3716098  PMID: 23554202
24.  Phage Therapy Is Effective against Infection by Mycobacterium ulcerans in a Murine Footpad Model 
Buruli Ulcer (BU) is a neglected, necrotizing skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Currently, there is no vaccine against M. ulcerans infection. Although the World Health Organization recommends a combination of rifampicin and streptomycin for the treatment of BU, clinical management of advanced stages is still based on the surgical resection of infected skin. The use of bacteriophages for the control of bacterial infections has been considered as an alternative or to be used in association with antibiotherapy. Additionally, the mycobacteriophage D29 has previously been shown to display lytic activity against M. ulcerans isolates.
Methodology/Principal findings
We used the mouse footpad model of M. ulcerans infection to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of treatment with mycobacteriophage D29. Analyses of macroscopic lesions, bacterial burdens, histology and cytokine production were performed in both M. ulcerans-infected footpads and draining lymph nodes (DLN). We have demonstrated that a single subcutaneous injection of the mycobacteriophage D29, administered 33 days after bacterial challenge, was sufficient to decrease pathology and to prevent ulceration. This protection resulted in a significant reduction of M. ulcerans numbers accompanied by an increase of cytokine levels (including IFN-γ), both in footpads and DLN. Additionally, mycobacteriophage D29 treatment induced a cellular infiltrate of a lymphocytic/macrophagic profile.
Our observations demonstrate the potential of phage therapy against M. ulcerans infection, paving the way for future studies aiming at the development of novel phage-related therapeutic approaches against BU.
Author Summary
Buruli Ulcer (BU), caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is a necrotizing disease of the skin, subcutaneous tissue and bone. Standard treatment of BU patients consists of a combination of the antibiotics rifampicin and streptomycin for 8 weeks. However, in advanced stages of the disease, surgical resection of the destroyed skin is still required. The use of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) for the control of bacterial infections has been considered as an alternative or a supplement to antibiotic chemotherapy. By using a mouse model of M. ulcerans footpad infection, we show that mice treated with a single subcutaneous injection of the mycobacteriophage D29 present decreased footpad pathology associated with a reduction of the bacterial burden. In addition, D29 treatment induced increased levels of IFN-γ and TNF in M. ulcerans-infected footpads, correlating with a predominance of a mononuclear infiltrate. These findings suggest the potential use of phage therapy in BU, as a novel therapeutic approach against this disease, particularly in advanced stages where bacteria are found primarily in an extracellular location in the subcutaneous tissue, and thus immediately accessible by lytic phages.
PMCID: PMC3636042  PMID: 23638204
25.  Evolutionary consequences of intra-patient phage predation on microbial populations 
eLife  2014;3:e03497.
The impact of phage predation on bacterial pathogens in the context of human disease is not currently appreciated. Here, we show that predatory interactions of a phage with an important environmentally transmitted pathogen, Vibrio cholerae, can modulate the evolutionary trajectory of this pathogen during the natural course of infection within individual patients. We analyzed geographically and temporally disparate cholera patient stool samples from Haiti and Bangladesh and found that phage predation can drive the genomic diversity of intra-patient V. cholerae populations. Intra-patient phage-sensitive and phage-resistant isolates were isogenic except for mutations conferring phage resistance, and moreover, phage-resistant V. cholerae populations were composed of a heterogeneous mix of many unique mutants. We also observed that phage predation can significantly alter the virulence potential of V. cholerae shed from cholera patients. We provide the first molecular evidence for predatory phage shaping microbial community structure during the natural course of infection in humans.
eLife digest
Cholera epidemics occur seasonally in areas such as Bangladesh, and outbreaks can also strike in vulnerable regions, as has occurred recently in Haiti. The disease is caused by Vibrio cholerae, a water-borne bacterium that colonizes the small intestine, and its symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death if the patient is not treated promptly.
Lytic phages are viruses that specifically attack and kill bacteria. After replicating many times inside the bacterial cell, the phages break open and destroy the cell. Over time a bacterial population can evolve to resist this phage ‘predation’; however, it is not known if bacterial pathogens need to defend themselves against phage attack when they infect humans. It had been suggested that phages might affect the progress of cholera infections in people, but molecular evidence that supports this hypothesis was lacking.
When testing stool samples from Haitian cholera patients, Seed et al. found one sample contained a lot of lytic phage relative to the amount of V. cholerae present. This phage was very similar to—but distinct from—a phage found in Bangladeshi patients.
The V. cholerae bacteria isolated from the stool sample were resistant to attack by the phage. Sequencing the genome of individual bacteria from this sample revealed that each had a mutation that made them resistant to the phage; and while many types of these mutations were found, these were the only differences between all the V. cholerae bacteria in this patient sample. This suggests that this resistance developed independently many different times within the patient due to strong selective pressure from phage predation.
When Seed et al. looked at a phage-positive stool sample from a Bangladeshi patient, more mutations that made the bacteria resistant to this phage were found; however, these mutations were different again from the ones in the Haitian bacteria. Because of the nature of these mutations the bacteria from this patient were rendered unable to cause disease and non-transmissible.
This work shows that phages can indeed have access to pathogenic bacteria during human infection. It also indicates that the pressure imposed by phage predation can, in some cases, be so strong that the bacteria lose their virulence and ability to spread to other humans in order to become resistant to the phage.
PMCID: PMC4141277  PMID: 25161196
Vibrio cholerae; cholera; bacteriophage; phage; OmpU; ToxR; viruses; other

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