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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

Effective inhibition of lytic development of bacteriophages λ, P1 and T4 by starvation of their host, Escherichia coli

Marcin Łoś13*, Piotr Golec1, Joanna M Łoś1, Anna Węglewska-Jurkiewicz1, Agata Czyż2, Alicja Węgrzyn2, Grzegorz Węgrzyn14 and Peter Neubauer3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biology, University of Gdańsk, Kładki 24, 80-822 Gdańsk, Poland

2 Laboratory of Molecular Biology (affiliated with the University of Gdańsk), Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kładki 24, 80-822 Gdańsk, Poland

3 Bioprocess Engineering Laboratory, Biocenter Oulu and Department of Process and Environmental Engineering, University of Oulu, P.O.Box 4300, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland

4 Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Św. Wojciecha 5, 81-347 Gdynia, Poland

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BMC Biotechnology 2007, 7:13  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-7-13

Published: 26 February 2007



Bacteriophage infections of bacterial cultures cause serious problems in genetic engineering and biotechnology. They are dangerous not only because of direct effects on the currently infected cultures, i.e. their devastation, but also due to a high probability of spreading the phage progeny throughout a whole laboratory or plant, which causes a real danger for further cultivations. Therefore, a simple method for quick inhibition of phage development after detection of bacterial culture infection should be very useful.


Here, we demonstrate that depletion of a carbon source from the culture medium, which provokes starvation of bacterial cells, results in rapid inhibition of lytic development of three Escherichia coli phages, λ, P1 and T4. Since the effect was similar for three different phages, it seems that it may be a general phenomenon. Moreover, similar effects were observed in flask cultures and in chemostats.


Bacteriophage lytic development can be inhibited efficiently by carbon source limitation in bacterial cultures. Thus, if bacteriophage contamination is detected, starvation procedures may be recommended to alleviate deleterious effects of phage infection on the culture. We believe that this strategy, in combination with the use of automated and sensitive bacteriophage biosensors, may be employed in the fermentation laboratory practice to control phage outbreaks in bioprocesses more effectively.