Bacillus anthracis is a soil dwelling microbe with pronounced pathogenic potential. Historically, anthrax has infected livestock and man. In the modern-age, anthrax is a bioterrorism concern with major incidents every decade. While the threat of large scale attacks is currently viewed as unlikely, the threat is consistent and constant. Current methods to defend against such an attack focus on antibiotics and containment of public panic. Antibiotic resistance, while not currently an issue for anthrax, could easily become so with genetically engineered weaponized strains created by rogue states or independent actors. This project evolved from collaborations between the Grose lab and the Robison lab, both housed in the Microbiology and Molecular Biology Department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Two undergraduates in the Grose lab isolated 23 genetically distinct phage that infect the non-pathogenic Bacillus anthracis Sterne strain. Results from spot testing on a diverse library of 11 fully virulent strains that represent the extant genetic diversity of pathogenic B. anthracis in BYU’s BSL-3 facility give credence to the idea that phage could be useful in containing this pathogen. Phage were isolated from environmental samples using enrichment culture, high titer lysates of isolated phage were created, and differential assays were performed. Experiments to show phage differences included electron microscopy, restriction digests, and spot testing using different isolates of B. anthracis. These data identified several novel phage that could infect a wide variety of virulent B. anthracis isolates. Preliminary results also showed most of these phage to be different both morphologically and genetically.We propose that phage therapy deserves further research, public awareness, and increased understanding for governmental regulatory awareness.



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Life Sciences; Microbiology and Molecular Biology



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Keywords: Phage, pathogenic, anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, infection, treatment, bioterrorism, livestock, weaponized, spot testing, antibiotic resistance, plaque, microbe



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