Life or virulence? Phage Cocktails That Make Bacteria Choose
Anika Kinkhabwala of EpiBiome in the U.S. will exploit the development of resistance to bacteriophage by pathogenic bacteria to improve children’s gut health. Bacteriophage recognize proteins and other molecules found on the surface of bacteria, which they use to infect and kill them. They will identify bacteriophage isolated from fecal and sewage samples that can target virulence structures on the surface of the pathogenic bacteria enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) and Shigella dysenteriae, which are common diarrhea-causing bacteria. Faced with such bacteriophage, pathogenic bacterial populations would become enriched with mutants that escaped phage infection by virtue of having lost these virulence factors, with resistant bacteria thereby less harmful to humans. They will characterize how these bacteria develop resistance to specific phage and build a cocktail of phage that target different bacterial virulence structures to further weaken pathogenic bacteria and help cure diarrheal disease.