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PLoS One. 2007 Aug 29;2(8):e799.

Phage-Antibiotic Synergy (PAS): beta-lactam and quinolone antibiotics stimulate virulent phage growth.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie et Génétique Moléculaires, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université Paul Sabatier-Toulouse, Toulouse, France.


Although the multiplication of bacteriophages (phages) has a substantial impact on the biosphere, comparatively little is known about how the external environment affects phage production. Here we report that sub-lethal concentrations of certain antibiotics can substantially stimulate the host bacterial cell's production of some virulent phage. For example, a low dosage of cefotaxime, a cephalosporin, increased an uropathogenic Escherichia coli strain's production of the phage PhiMFP by more than 7-fold. We name this phenomenon Phage-Antibiotic Synergy (PAS). A related effect was observed in diverse host-phage systems, including the T4-like phages, with beta-lactam and quinolone antibiotics, as well as mitomycin C. A common characteristic of these antibiotics is that they inhibit bacterial cell division and trigger the SOS system. We therefore examined the PAS effect within the context of the bacterial SOS and filamentation responses. We found that the PAS effect appears SOS-independent and is primarily a consequence of cellular filamentation; it is mimicked by cells that constitutively filament. The fact that completely unrelated phages manifest this phenomenon suggests that it confers an important and general advantage to the phages.

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