With Valentine’s Day just shy of a week away, it’s once again time for everyone to be inundated with advertisements about why you should buy some sparking jewelry for that special someone—after all, a diamond is forever. However, we recently heard a more interesting take on that age-old adage—according to Dr. Paul Bollky (Stanford, MD, D.Phil), “The same reason a diamond 💎 is forever is the reason clearing Pf phage infections is so difficult.”
But what are Pf phages and why are they complicating infection treatment?
To find out, we went to Dr. Bollyky’s iPATH seminar talk on January 29th.
(The first PATH seminar of 2020! If interested, check out [link!] for the 2019 series in review.)
“Pf phage” is a filamentous bacteriophage that infects Pseudomonas aeruginosa; it isn’t quite a lytic phage or a prophage, but instead replicates and extrudes into the environment without killing the host.
A 2019 Science paper by Sweere et al. from Paul’s lab described the ability of Pf phage to complicate P. aeruginosa wound healing. Pf phages are associated with biofilm production, which increases the likelihood of antibiotic resistance, leading to a worse clinical outcome for the patient.
In his iPATH talk, Dr. Bollyky touched on more recent work with Dr. Patrick Secor to further study the structure and polymers involved with the formation of Pf phage associated polymers, a nearly crystalline structure that’s entropically favorable, polarizes light, and is difficult to disrupt (hence the reference to diamonds 💎 above!).
He also talked about the widespread presence of Pf phage in clinical samples (working with Dr. Gina Suh) and even in lab strains of P. aeruginosa.
Considering the immunological response of the mammalian host to Pf phage-associated bacteria, he discussed mechanisms by which Pf phages prevent bacterial clearance as well as a potential vaccine currently in development in his lab against this phage.
All in all, chatting, discussing sci-fi, and talking science with Paul was fantastic and we look forward to his next visit!