Phagocins: Precision Tools for Remodeling the Gut Microbiota
Ry Young III from Texas A&M AgriLife Research in the U.S. will engineer particles that resemble bacteria-infecting viruses (phage), but are functionally defective, for developing treatments that can more safely modify bacteria in the infant gut and thereby protect against disease and malnutrition. So-called lytic phage physically destroy the bacteria they infect and are considered to be potentially highly valuable for treating many childhood infectious diseases that are prevalent in developing countries and cause substantial morbidity and mortality. However, phage can randomly change their behavior by mutating their genome, and can transfer genes between different species, raising safety concerns. They will modify the defective prophage PBSX from the harmless bacterium Bacillus subtilis to produce phage-like particles - phagocins - that cannot replicate and that kill bacterial cells without lysing them. They will evaluate the ability of the phagocins to infect and kill a variety of bacteria, and optimize methods for their low-cost production.