Kitchen sponges are exposed to several different microbes, forming an immense microbiome of bacteria. Phages, the most abundant biological particles on the planet, are typically found wherever bacteria reside. With this understanding, kitchen sponges seemed a likely place to find them.
Students at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) isolated bacteria from their own used kitchen sponges and then used the bacteria as bait to find phages that could attack it. Two students discovered that phages that infect bacteria living in their kitchen sponges.
The researchers decided to swap these two phages to see if they could cross-infect the other person’s isolated bacteria. Consequently, the phages did kill the other’s bacteria. This led the team to investigate whether the strains were the same, even though they came from two different sponges.
To find out, the team compared the DNA of both isolated strains of bacteria and discovered that they were both members of the Enterobacteriaceae family. These bacteria belong to a rod-shaped group of microbes commonly found in feces, where some cause infections in hospital settings. Although the strains are closely related, when performing biochemical testing they found chemical variations between them.
“Continuing our work,” said the students, “we hope to isolate and characterize more phages that can infect bacteria from a variety of microbial ecosystems, where some of these phages might be used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.”