Epidemiological Uses and Diagnosis - Viruses

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Chapter: Pharmaceutical Microbiology : Viruses

The high specificity of phage against their host leads to other applications. Phage typing is a method that differentiates distinct strains of the same bacterial species on the basis of their susceptibility to phages.


EPIDEMIOLOGICAL USES AND DIAGNOSIS

 

The high specificity of phage against their host leads to other applications. Phage typing is a method that differentiates distinct strains of the same bacterial species on the basis of their susceptibility to phages. This has been particularly relevant with bacteria such as Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi and to some extent Staphylococcus aureus that can be ‘typed’ during an outbreak, and thus provides some important epidemiological information. Molecular techniques based on genetic differences are now preferred for S. aureus.

 

A further application for phage is in developing rapid diagnostics, notably against slow growing bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. One specific kit relies on the protection of TB phages from an externally applied viricide when inside the targeted host, M. tuberculosis if present; if the bacterium is not present in the sputum or other biological fluid sample then the phages will be unprotected and destroyed. Phages that are protected and able to propagate are then harvested and inoculated to a lawn of rapidly growing susceptible mycobacteria. The presence of plaques will indicate that the phages were able to replicate first within M. tuberculosis, i.e. a positive sample.

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