Phage diversity for research and application

PI: Dr. Johannes Wittmann

Since their discovery over a century ago, about 6000 types of bacteriophages have been characterized which makes them the largest virus group known so far. The vast majority of the known bacteriophages are tailed and contain double-stranded DNA. However, culture independent molecular approaches have revealed that bacteriophages occur in a much larger diversity and in high abundance in essentially all environments on Earth, ranging from marine waters and soils, the deep biosphere or the human gut. In fact, >90% of the bacteriophages in certain environments are still unknown. At present, only a limited fraction of the existing bacteriophage diversity is maintained in public collections worldwide, which provide the quality controlled and documented cultures that are needed for scientific studies of bacteriophage biology. The phage collection of the Leibniz Institute DSMZ offers a diverse collection of bacteriophages that is continously extended based on diversity by acquiring members of new taxonomic groups, special phage collections from retiring scientists or by isolating phages in DSMZ projects. For this purpose, some years ago the DSMZ phage group started the Phage Trapper Project, in which students from the TU Braunschweig learn how to isolate and characterize phages against different host organisms. In the meantime, several German universities have also already contributed to that project by depositing phages from similar projects.

Selected references

  1. Saez D, Visram Z, Mutti M, Restrepo-Cordoba M, Hartmann S, Kremers AI, Tisakova L, Schertler S, Wittmann J, Kalali B, Monecke S, Ehricht R, Resch G, Corsini L. ε2-Phages Are Naturally Bred and Have a Vastly Improved Host Range in Staphylococcus aureus over Wild Type Phages Pharmaceuticals 2021, 14(4), 325.
  2. Wittmann J, Turner D, Millard AD, Mahadevan P, Kropinski AM, Adriaenssens EM. From Orphan Phage to a Proposed New Family-the Diversity of N4-Like Viruses. Antibiotics (Basel) . 2020 Sep 30;9(10):663.
  3. Korf IHE, Meier-Kolthoff JP, Adriaenssens EM, Kropinski AM, Nimtz M, Rohde M, van Raaij MJ, Wittmann J. Still Something to Discover: Novel Insights into Escherichia coli Phage Diversity and Taxonomy.Viruses. 2019 May 17;11(5). pii: E454..