Authors: Stephen T. Abedon, Department of Microbiology, The Ohio State University, Mansfield, Ohio
Abstract: Bacteriophages (phages) are the viruses of bacteria and biofilms represent a frequent niche for bacteria, one that potentially modifies phage-bacterial interactions away from those seen with planktonic bacteria. Bacteria in biofilms, especially, are structured into complex microcolonies and embedded in extensive extracellular polymer (EPS). Towards gaining a better understanding of the biology of phage-biofilm interactions, here I provide an overview of the subject, divided into four areas: (i) The many facets of phage-biofilm interactive biology including consideration of virus trapping, phage hydrolytic enzymessuch as EPS depolymerases, infection of biofilm bacteria, phage prevalence within natural biofilms, prophage-biofilm interactions including in terms of prophage modification of biofilm structure or function, and the potential for biofilms to resist phage attack. (ii) A critical review of the literature concerning phage use as biofilm prevention or eradication agents, that is,phage therapy or phage-mediated biocontrol of biofilms. (iii) Discussion of phage-plaque developmentas it occurs in the laboratory as a model for phage-biofilm interactions, since plaque formation is both related to and better understood than lytic phage infection of biofilms. And (iv) exploration of issues pertaining to phage penetration into bacterial microcolonies. I stress that key to understanding the dynamics of phage-bacterial interactions within biofilms is a combination of addressing how phages move toward as well asaway from target bacteria, including in terms of the phage potential to burrow into bacterial microcolonies. I argue that it may not be necessaryfor phages, even if they specialize on biofilm bacteria, to extensively destroy naturally occurring biofilms in order to prosper.
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