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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2016 Feb;363(3). pii: fnv246. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnv246. Epub 2016 Jan 6.

Bacteriophage exploitation of bacterial biofilms: phage preference for less mature targets?

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Department of Microbiology, The Ohio State University; Mansfield, OH 44906, USA


Robust evidence is somewhat lacking for biofilm susceptibility to bacteriophages in nature, contrasting often substantial laboratory biofilm vulnerability to phages. To help bridge this divide, I review a two-part scenario for 'heterogeneous' phage interaction even with phage-permissive single-species biofilms. First, through various mechanisms, those bacteria which are both more newly formed and located at biofilm surfaces may be particularly vulnerable to phage adsorption, rather than biofilm matrix being homogeneously resistant to phage penetration. Second, though phage infection of older, less metabolically active bacteria may still be virion productive, nevertheless the majority of phage population growth in association with biofilm bacteria could involve infection particularly of those bacteria which are more metabolically active and thereby better able to support larger phage bursts, versus clonally related biofilm bacteria equivalently supporting phage production. To the extent that biofilms are physiologically or structurally heterogeneous, with phages exploiting particularly relatively newly divided biofilm-surface bacteria, then even effective phage predation of natural biofilms could result in less than complete overall biofilm clearance. Phage tendencies toward only partial exploitation of even single-species biofilms could be consistent with observations that chronic bacterial infections in the clinic can require more aggressive or extensive phage therapy to eradicate.


antibiofilm activity; biofilm; ecology; microcolony; phage therapy; phage-mediated biocontrol of bacteria

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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