Matthew Bavelock, a student in his final year of the Associate’s in Science degree program at Landmark College, participated in a Vermont Genetics Network at-large undergraduate summer internship this year. He worked in the laboratory of Matthew Wargo, PhD, at the University of Vermont in Burlington where he was involved in a study investigating biofilms (bacterial communities). In a post-antibiotic era, we need different ways to eliminate bacteria. Bacteria in biofilms are particularly difficult to fight, because the biofilm provides protection. One promising technique for eliminating biofilms is to use bacteriophage (viruses that prey on bacteria), called phage therapy.
Bacteriophage, are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. There are ten bacterial species Dr. Wargo and his lab are currently working on that were isolated from a bacterially infected potable water reclamation system on the International Space Station (ISS). Finding and isolating phage that prey on these ten bacteria could be a practical way to reduce bacterial burden in the water treatment system.
Dr. Wargo’s project involved isolating bacteriophage from a variety of water sources in the Burlington, VT area and testing the bacteriophage’s ability to lyse bacteria previously isolated from the space station. Matt isolated a previously unknown phage that specifically infects and lyses the bacterium Sphingomonas paucimobilis. This discovery may provide scientists with a way to target these bacteria within biofilm communities.