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Bi- and Multi-directional Gene Transfer in the Natural Populations of Polyvalent Bacteriophages, and Their Host Species Spectrum Representing Foodborne Versus Other Human and/or Animal Pathogens

Abstract

Unraveling the trends of phage-host versus phage-phage coevolution is critical for avoiding possible undesirable outcomes from the use of phage preparations intended for therapeutic, food safety or environmental safety purposes. We aimed to investigate a phenomenon of intergeneric recombination and its trajectories across the natural populations of phages predominantly linked to foodborne pathogens. The results from the recombination analyses, using a large array of the recombination detection algorithms imbedded in SplitsTree, RDP4, and Simplot software packages, provided strong evidence (fit: 100; P  ≤ 0.014) for both bi- and multi-directional intergeneric recombination of the genetic loci involved collectively in phage morphogenesis, host specificity, virulence, replication, and persistence. Intergeneric recombination was determined to occur not only among conspecifics of the virulent versus temperate phages but also between the phages with these different lifestyles. The recombining polyvalent phages were suggested to interact with fairly large host species networks, including sometimes genetically very distinct species, such as e.g., Salmonella enterica and/or Escherichia coli versus Staphylococcus aureus or Yersinia pestis. Further studies are needed to understand whether phage-driven intergeneric recombination can lead to undesirable changes of intestinal and other microbiota in humans and animals.

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Acknowledgements

The study was supported by the intramural funds of the Scientific-Research Center of Agriculture and the G. Natadze Scientific-Research Institute of Sanitation, Hygiene and Medical Ecology.

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Correspondence to Mamuka Kotetishvili.

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Stylianos Koulouris and Tobin Robinson are employed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The present article is published under the sole responsibility of the authors and may not be considered as an EFSA scientific output. The positions and opinions presented in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views or scientific works of EFSA.

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Gabashvili, E., Kobakhidze, S., Koulouris, S. et al. Bi- and Multi-directional Gene Transfer in the Natural Populations of Polyvalent Bacteriophages, and Their Host Species Spectrum Representing Foodborne Versus Other Human and/or Animal Pathogens. Food Environ Virol 13, 179–202 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12560-021-09460-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12560-021-09460-6

Keywords

  • Bacteriophage
  • Genetic recombination
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Intergeneric recombination
  • Foodborne pathogens
  • Host species