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Suppression of Enteric Bacteria by Bacteriophages: Importance of Phage Polyvalence in the Presence of Soil Bacteria

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journal contribution
posted on 17.04.2017, 00:00 by Pingfeng Yu, Jacques Mathieu, Yu Yang, Pedro J. J. Alvarez
Bacteriophages are widely recognized for their importance in microbial ecology and bacterial control. However, little is known about how phage polyvalence (i.e., broad host range) affects bacterial suppression and interspecies competition in environments harboring enteric pathogens and soil bacteria. Here we compare the efficacy of polyvalent phage PEf1 versus coliphage T4 in suppressing a model enteric bacterium (E. coli K-12) in mixtures with soil bacteria (Pseudomonas putida F1 and Bacillus subtilis 168). Although T4 was more effective than PEf1 in infecting E. coli K-12 in pure cultures, PEf1 was 20-fold more effective in suppressing E. coli under simulated multispecies biofilm conditions because polyvalence enhanced PEf1 propagation in P. putida. In contrast, soil bacteria do not propagate coliphages and hindered T4 diffusion through the biofilm. Similar tests were also conducted under planktonic conditions to discern how interspecies competition contributes to E. coli suppression without the confounding effects of restricted phage diffusion. Significant synergistic suppression was observed by the combined effects of phages plus competing bacteria. T4 was slightly more effective in suppressing E. coli in these planktonic mixed cultures, even though PEf1 reached higher concentrations by reproducing also in P. putida (7.2 ± 0.4 vs 6.0 ± 1.0 log10PFU/mL). Apparently, enhanced suppression by higher PEf1 propagation was offset by P. putida lysis, which decreased stress from interspecies competition relative to incubations with T4. In similar planktonic tests with more competing soil bacteria species, P. putida lysis was less critical in mitigating interspecies competition and PEf1 eliminated E. coli faster than T4 (36 vs 42 h). Overall, this study shows that polyvalent phages can propagate in soil bacteria and significantly enhance suppression of co-occurring enteric species.

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