What is Phage Hunters?

Phage Hunters is a two-semester course (MMBIO 194 and 195) where you have the opportunity to play a role in current research projects. The first semester is dedicated to phage hunting, the discovery of previously unknown viruses that infect bacteria.  We isolate, purify, and characterize the phages.  You will get to look at the phages that you isolate using transmission electron microscopy, extract their DNA, and perform rudimentary genetic analysis.

During the second semester, the genomes of phages are annotated, analyzed and additional experiments are performed to further characterize the phages.  At the conclusion of this semester, students attend a branch meeting of the American Society for Microbiology to present their research.  Students also get to submit annotated genomes to GenBank, the international repository of genetic sequence information.

Phages that we are isolating in the 2018-2019 phage hunters course infect three groups of bacteria:

  1. The Enterobacteriaceae family that includes a wide range of plant and human pathogens (MMBIO194 sections 1 and 2, Dr. Julianne Grose)
  2. The Rhizobiaceae, which include bacteria enhancing or inhibiting the growth of plants (MMBIO194 section 3, Dr. Don Breakwell), and
  3. The Actinobacteria class, which is a diverse group of bacteria found in soil, and some of which that are parasitic to humans and other animals (MMBIO194, all sections).

Our goal is to use phages to fight infections and to understand phage diversity and evolution.
Come and gain great lab skills and participate in a national SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science), a collaborative of phage researchers from hundreds of colleges and universities, nationwide.