Lying in wait: Modeling the control of bacterial infections via antibiotic-induced proviruses

Sara M. Clifton, Ted Kim, Jayadevi H. Chandrashekhar, George A. O'Toole, Zoi Rapti, Rachel J. Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most bacteria and archaea are infected by latent viruses that change their physiology and responses to environmental stress. We use a population model of the bacterium-phage relationship to examine the role that latent phage play in the bacterial population over time in response to antibiotic treatment. We demonstrate that the stress induced by antibiotic administration, even if bacteria are resistant to killing by antibiotics, is sufficient to control the infection under certain conditions. This work expands the breadth of understanding of phage-antibiotic synergy to include both temperate and chronic viruses persisting in their latent form in bacterial populations. IMPORTANCE Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern for management of common bacterial infections. Here, we show that antibiotics can be effective at subinhibitory levels when bacteria carry latent phage. Our findings suggest that specific treatment strategies based on the identification of latent viruses in individual bacterial strains may be an effective personalized medicine approach to antibiotic stewardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00221-19
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Bacteria
  • Bacteriophage
  • Chronic
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Latent
  • Latent infection
  • Lysogenic
  • Lytic
  • Mathematical model
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Phage
  • Population dynamics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Resistance
  • Temperate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications


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