The host phylogeny determines viral infectivity and replication across Staphylococcus host species

Sarah-Jane Walsh, Ryan M Imrie , Marta Matuszewska, Gavin Paterson, Lucy A. Weinert, Jarrod D. Hadfield, Angus Buckling, Ben Longdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Virus host shifts, where a virus transmits to and infects a novel host species, are a major source of emerging infectious disease. Genetic similarity between eukaryotic host species has been shown to be an important determinant of the outcome of virus host shifts, but it is unclear if this is the case for prokaryotes where anti-virus defences can be transmitted by horizontal gene transfer and evolve rapidly. Here, we measure the susceptibility of 64 strains of Staphylococcaceae bacteria (48 strains of Staphylococcus aureus and 16 non-S. aureus species spanning 2 genera) to the bacteriophage ISP, which is currently under investigation for use in phage therapy. Using three methods-plaque assays, optical density (OD) assays, and quantitative (q)PCR-we find that the host phylogeny explains a large proportion of the variation in susceptibility to ISP across the host panel. These patterns were consistent in models of only S. aureus strains and models with a single representative from each Staphylococcaceae species, suggesting that these phylogenetic effects are conserved both within and among host species. We find positive correlations between susceptibility assessed using OD and qPCR and variable correlations between plaque assays and either OD or qPCR, suggesting that plaque assays alone may be inadequate to assess host range. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the phylogenetic relationships between bacterial hosts can generally be used to predict the susceptibility of bacterial strains to phage infection when the susceptibility of closely related hosts is known, although this approach produced large prediction errors in multiple strains where phylogeny was uninformative. Together, our results demonstrate the ability of bacterial host evolutionary relatedness to explain differences in susceptibility to phage infection, with implications for the development of ISP both as a phage therapy treatment and as an experimental system for the study of virus host shifts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011433
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number6
Early online date8 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Bacteriophages/genetics
  • Host Specificity/genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Staphylococcus aureus/genetics
  • Staphylococcus/genetics


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