According to CDC, every year at least 2 million people are affected and 23,000 dies as a result of antibiotic resistance in U.S. It is considered one of the biggest threats to global health. More and more bacterial infections are becoming harder to treat. One such infection is fire blight, one of the most destructive disease of apple and pear trees. It is caused by bacteria Erwinia amylovora and its outbreaks have been known to destroy entire orchards in a single season. The conventional method of treatments includes use of antibiotics like streptomycin and oxytetracycline but the incidences like presence of multi-drug resistant bacteria in the mammals grazing in the fields have raised concerns. Phage therapy is considered one of the few ways available to combat bacterial resistance and prevent fire blight. In this method, a cocktail of highly lytic bacteriophages is prepared and sprayed on the trees at different time intervals. Bacteriophages are an “intelligent” drug. They multiply at the site of the infection until there are no more bacteria and then they are excreted back into the nature. These phenomena make them more efficient than an antibiotic, which kills all kind of bacteria including good bacteria and can be maintained in the environment for long periods of time. These qualities of bacteriophage have resulted in many commercially available phage therapies. The initial part of this research focuses on isolation, characterization and genomic comparison of bacteriophages that infect a plant pathogen E.amylovora of Erwiniaceae family of Enterobacteriales order. In this study, 28 novel bacteriophages were isolated, fully sequenced, characterized and grouped into seven families based on phage homology. To take this further, we characterized a novel jumbo family of bacteriophages that has a small burst size of 4.6-4.9 and are most similar to bacteriophages that infect Pseudomonas and Ralstonia rather than Enterobacteriales bacteria by protein similarity. These bacteriophages are shown to infect Erwinia and Pantoea bacterial strains, but no infection of 9 other bacterial strains tested, was seen, under laboratory conditions. The results of this work provide an insight on special characteristics that makes bacteriophage so unique and adaptable. The final part of this research explores the enormous diversity of bacteriophages. In 2014 Grose and Casjens grouped 337 fully sequenced tailed phages into 56 diverse clusters (32 lytic and 24 temperate). We further expanded our current understanding of these clusters by performing the comprehensive analysis of genomes and proteomes of 1037 tailed bacteriophages, posted on GenBank. The results of this work provide insights into diversity and relatedness of bacteriophages and the data is posted on GenBank.



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Life Sciences; Microbiology and Molecular Biology



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E. amylovora, bacteriophage, Enterobacteriaceae, phage clusters, fire blight, Pantoea, phage therapy