The Role of Phages in Infant Gut Microbiome Modulation
Jennifer Mahony and Douwe van Sinderen of University College Cork in Ireland, with Marco Ventura of University of Parma in Italy, will study how bacteriophage, which are viruses that infect and kill bacteria, affect both beneficial and pathogenic bacterial populations over time in the guts of infants from developing countries, which ultimately influence infant health and well-being. They will take fecal samples at 1, 2, 3 and 6-month time points from healthy children and those with gut disorders in Malawi, Sudan, Ethiopia or Nigeria, and identify the types and levels of bacteria and phage present by sequencing their DNA. These data will be combined with obtained dietary information to identify links between phage populations and the changes in bacterial populations in the gut. They are particularly interested in whether changes in the levels of beneficial bacteria caused by phage might make the gut more vulnerable to colonization by pathogenic bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) and Shigella, which are a major cause of mortality in infants. In parallel, they will identify phage that can kill these pathogenic bacteria and may be developed into new treatments.