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War between bacteria and phages benefits humans
Date:9/2/2014

ly working in our favor, first by killing cholera bacteria within the patient, and second, by genetically weakening the bacteria that are shed by the infected patient such that they are less fit to survive in the environment or less able to cause infection in other people," said senior author Andrew Camilli, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, professor of molecular biology & microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, and member of the Molecular Microbiology program faculty at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University.

"This important finding suggests that we may be able to leverage the strength of phages for treating people with cholera or perhaps preventing cholera in people who may have been recently exposed as an alternative to antibiotics," he continued.

"Seeing this rapid evolutionary change in the cholera bacteria occurring during human infection suggests that the phages are posing a very strong threat. And to observe this in two different continents suggests that this is not a one-time find, but that it may be happening consistently during cholera outbreaks," said first author Seed, now assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at University of Michigan. "Additionally, virtually all bacteria can be infected by phages, which are found wherever bacteria are. So this finding with cholera may be the start of a broader understanding of how phages and bacteria evolve."

Previous work by Camilli and Seed, published last year in Nature, provided the first evidence that a phage could acquire a wholly functional and adaptive immune system. They observed that the phage could use this acquired immune system to disarm a phage defense system of the cholera bacteria, allowing the phage to ultimately destroy its bacterial host. This study bolstered the concept of using phage to prevent or treat bacterial infections, and extended the idea that phages can be extreme
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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
Siobhan.gallagher@tufts.edu
617-636-6586
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus
Source:Eurekalert  

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