Outside-host phage therapy as a biological control against environmental infectious diseases

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Background: Environmentally growing pathogens present an increasing threat for human health, wildlife and food production. Treating the hosts with antibiotics or parasitic bacteriophages fail to eliminate diseases that grow also in the outside-host environment. However, bacteriophages could be utilized to suppress the pathogen population sizes in the outside-host environment in order to prevent disease outbreaks. Here, we introduce a novel epidemiological model to assess how the phage infections of the bacterial pathogens affect epidemiological dynamics of the environmentally growing pathogens. We assess whether the phage therapy in the outside-host environment could be utilized as a biological control method against these diseases. We also consider how phage-resistant competitors affect the outcome, a common problem in phage therapy. The models give predictions for the scenarios where the outside-host phage therapy will work and where it will fail to control the disease. Parameterization of the model is based on the fish columnaris disease that causes significant economic losses to aquaculture worldwide. However, the model is also suitable for other environmentally growing bacterial diseases.

Results: Transmission rates of the phage determine the success of infectious disease control, with high-transmission phage enabling the recovery of the host population that would in the absence of the phage go asymptotically extinct due to the disease. In the presence of outside-host bacterial competition between the pathogen and phage-resistant strain, the trade-off between the pathogen infectivity and the phage resistance determines phage therapy outcome from stable coexistence to local host extinction.

Conclusions: We propose that the success of phage therapy strongly depends on the underlying biology, such as the strength of trade-off between the pathogen infectivity and the phage-resistance, as well as on the rate that the phages infect the bacteria. Our results indicate that phage therapy can fail if there are phage-resistant bacteria and the trade-off between pathogen infectivity and phage resistance does not completely inhibit the pathogen infectivity. Also, the rate that the phages infect the bacteria should be sufficiently high for phage-therapy to succeed.
TidskriftTheoretical Biology and Medical Modelling
Antal sidor11
StatusPublicerad - 8 jun 2018
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad


  • 1182 Biokemi, cell- och molekylärbiologi

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