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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2012 Jul;65(2):395-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2012.00977.x. Epub 2012 May 18.

Synergistic phage-antibiotic combinations for the control of Escherichia coli biofilms in vitro.

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School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK.


The potential application of phage therapy for the control of bacterial biofilms has received increasing attention as resistance to conventional antibiotic agents continues to increase. The present study identifies antimicrobial synergy between bacteriophage T4 and a conventional antibiotic, cefotaxime, via standard plaque assay and, importantly, in the in vitro eradication of biofilms of the T4 host strain Escherichia coli 11303. Phage-antibiotic synergy (PAS) is defined as the phenomenon whereby sub-lethal concentrations of certain antibiotics can substantially stimulate the host bacteria's production of virulent phage. Increasing sub-lethal concentrations of cefotaxime resulted in an observed increase in T4 plaque size and T4 concentration. The application of PAS to the T4 one-step growth curve also resulted in an increased burst size and reduced latent period. Combinations of T4 bacteriophage and cefotaxime significantly enhanced the eradication of bacterial biofilms when compared to treatment with cefotaxime alone. The addition of medium (10(4) PFU mL(-1)) and high (10(7) PFU mL(-1)) phage titres reduced the minimum biofilm eradication concentration value of cefotaxime against E. coli ATCC 11303 biofilms from 256 to 128 and 32 μg mL(-1), respectively. Although further investigation is needed to confirm PAS, this study demonstrates, for the first time, that synergy between bacteriophage and conventional antibiotics can significantly improve biofilm control in vitro.

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