Open Access Research article

Genomic characterization of two Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteriophages with anti-biofilm potential

Diana Gutiérrez, Beatriz Martínez, Ana Rodríguez and Pilar García*

Author Affiliations

DairySafe Group, Department of Technology and Biotechnology of Dairy Products, Instituto de Productos Lácteos de Asturias (IPLA-CSIC), Paseo Río Linares, s/n, 33300, Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:228  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-228

Published: 8 June 2012



Staphylococcus epidermidis is a commensal bacterium but can colonize the hospital environment due to its ability to form biofilms favouring adhesion to host tissues, medical devices and increasing resistance to antibiotics. In this context, the use of phages to destroy biofilms is an interesting alternative.


The complete genomes of two Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteriophages, vB_SepiS-phiIPLA5 and vB_SepiS-phiIPLA7, have been analyzed. Their genomes are 43,581 bp and 42,123 bp, and contain 67 and 59 orfs. Bioinformatic analyses enabled the assignment of putative functions to 36 and 29 gene products, respectively, including DNA packaging and morphogenetic proteins, lysis components, and proteins necessary for DNA recombination, regulation, modification and replication. A point mutation in vB_SepiS-phiIPLA5 lysogeny control-associated genes explained its strictly lytic behaviour. Comparative analysis of phi-IPLA5 and phi-IPLA7 genome structure resembled those of S. epidermidis ϕPH15 and ϕCNPH82 phages. A mosaic structure of S. epidermidis prophage genomes was revealed by PCR analysis of three marker genes (integrase, major head protein and holin). Using these genes, high prevalence (73%) of phage DNA in a representative S. epidermidis strain collection consisting of 60 isolates from women with mastitis and healthy women was determined. Putative pectin lyase-like domains detected in virion-associated proteins of both phages could be involved in exopolysaccharide (EPS) depolymerization, as evidenced by both the presence of a clear halo surrounding the phage lysis zone and the phage-mediated biofilm degradation.


Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteriophages, vB_SepiS-phiIPLA5 and vB_SepiS-phiIPLA7, have a mosaic structure similar to other widespread S. epidermidis prophages. Virions of these phages are provided of pectin lyase-like domains, which may be regarded as promising anti-biofilm tools.