(537e) The Interaction of Bacteriophages with Materials Depends On Their Surface Chemistry
Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that attack and often destroy bacteria. They can be used as an alternative to standard antibiotics in a variety of systems (e.g., drinking water, food, animals, humans). When compared to standard antibiotics, phages have the advantages that (i) they are specific to their host bacteria (i.e., they leave other bacteria intact), and that (ii) they spontaneously evolve (i.e., they are better suited to deal with mutating bacteria). Bacteriophages are considered safe for use in humans and animals and have been approved by the FDA for use in food.
While the behavior of bacteriophages towards bacteria is well studied, there is no detailed understanding of their interaction with the surface of materials. Recent progress (e.g., in drug delivery, tissue engineering), has shown that materials are becoming increasingly important as supports for devices in medicine, biodetection, filtration, and sensing. Unraveling the interaction of bacteriophages with surfaces will be necessary to take full advantage of them in medical or environmental applications.
Here I will present results that illustrate how the binding of bacteriophages to materials (e.g., metals, ceramics, polymers) depends on the chemistry of their surface. Most bacteriophages are anisotropic and display a specific site with which they bind to the bacteria. This anisotropy and directionality of interaction suggests that the total number of bacteriophages adsorbed to a surface and their orientation are important. It will be crucial to understand how the surface properties (e.g., hydrophilic vs. hydrophobic or cationic vs. anionic) of a material influence the adsorption and orientation of phages to make them more easily applicable. Understanding the rules – either mechanistic or heuristic – underlying the adsorption of phages to surfaces will allow us to engineer materials that display the desired behavior towards phages (e.g., adsorption and release).