Niche adaptation limits bacteriophage predation of Vibrio cholerae in a nutrient-poor aquatic environment.


Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111 [Email]


Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, has reservoirs in fresh and brackish water where it interacts with virulent bacteriophages. Phages are the most abundant biological entity on earth and coevolve with bacteria. It was reported that concentrations of phage and V. cholerae inversely correlate in aquatic reservoirs and in the human small intestine, and therefore that phages may quench cholera outbreaks. Although there is strong evidence for phage predation in cholera patients, evidence is lacking for phage predation of V. cholerae in aquatic environments. Here, we used three virulent phages, ICP1, ICP2, and ICP3, commonly shed by cholera patients in Bangladesh, as models to understand the predation dynamics in microcosms simulating aquatic environments. None of the phages were capable of predation in fresh water, and only ICP1 was able to prey on V. cholerae in estuarine water due to a requirement for salt. We conclude that ICP2 and ICP3 are better adapted for predation in a nutrient rich environment. Our results point to the evolution of niche-specific predation by V. cholerae-specific virulent phages, which complicates their use in predicting or monitoring cholera outbreaks as well as their potential use in reducing aquatic reservoirs of V. cholerae in endemic areas.


Vibrio cholerae,aquatic reservoir,bacteriophage,cholera,environment,