About this Research Topic
Throughout evolution, bacteria have developed the ability to live in complex communities (biofilms) that confer them with great advantages, such as higher protection against adverse conditions and easier communication between cells. The success of this lifestyle is demonstrated by its abundance in all habitats on Earth. However, the biosphere is also inhabited by bacterial predators, such as bacteriophages, which play a crucial role in modulating microbial populations and promoting evolution and transfer of genetic information. Interestingly, inside biofilms, bacteria and bacteriophages can sometimes coexist in a perfect balance, exhibiting a relationship that resembles more a symbiosis, rather than that of a predator and prey. This phenomenon might be linked to the co-evolution of sophisticated mechanisms of attack and defence as part of a fine-tuned arms race that go beyond a simple control of the probability of infection. Indeed, it is also well known the impact of prophages and some virulent phages on growth, cell morphology and/or biofilm formation. For instance, prophage domestication by the host may promote its adaptation to specific environments and even increase virulence in some pathogenic bacteria.
Given the abundance of phages in most ecosystems, gaining a deeper insight of their impact on bacterial biofilms can be critical toward a better understanding of bacterial ecology in natural and human environments. Additionally, such knowledge will be valuable for the improvement of phage therapy strategies. Indeed, the growing interest in the use of phages and phage-derived proteins as antimicrobials against pathogenic bacteria has made it necessary to study the implications of using these agents against biofilms. More specifically, it is important to know how the physiological diversity of cells in these structures affects their response to phage and phage-proteins. For example, the complexity of biofilms, including their tridimentional structure, extracellular matrix composition, microbial diversity, maturation phase and varying environmental conditions (pH, oxygen, nutrients), may have an influence on the fine interaction between phage and host. In a clinical context, it is also especially important to assess whether phage infection may alter the stress responses of the pathogen, potentially promoting the expression of virulence factors or biofilm development, which would be a challenge for therapeutic success.
The worrying crisis of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria has fostered the study and development of new antimicrobials, including bacteriophages. In some cases, the ability of phages to infect their host is compromised by the protective structure of biofilms. Evolution has provided bacteria and their predators with mechanisms that allow them to live together. However, our poor knowledge of these complex interactions is delaying the application of phages as antimicrobials, which is relevant for human therapy.
The goal of the present special issue is to publish original research and review articles related to the application of bacteriophages as antimicrobial agents against biofilms in different areas, including clinical and food environments. The idea will be to provide scientific knowledge regarding the interplay between predator and prey in the context of a complex community, which will serve to improve the development of phage therapeutic applications.
In this Special Issue, authors are encouraged to submit unpublished original research and critical review articles related to the role of phages and prophages in the behavior of bacterial biofilms, as well as the response of cells after exposure to phages and phage-proteins. The focus of this Special Issue concerns all major aspects of biofilm and phage research. Potential topics include but are not limited to the following:
• Isolation and characterization of new phages and phage proteins active against biofilms
• Description of novel analytical methods for the study of biofilms and biofilm removal.
• Application of phage derived products against biofilms in vivo, assessment of microbial viability and future perspectives for their use in clinical settings.
• Phenotypic and genetic effects of phages and phage proteins on biofilms.
• Genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics of biofilms treated with phages and phage proteins.
• The role of phage-biofilm balance on human health.
Keywords: bacteriophages, biofilms, biofouling, phage therapy, pathogenicity, bacterial evolution
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.