Mycobacteriophages are viruses that infect mycobacterial hosts, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis. Because the discovery and genomic characterization of mycobacteriophages has been the focus of integrated research and education programs, including the Phage Hunters Integrating Research and Education (PHIRE) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (HHMI SEA-PHAGES), thousands of phages have been isolated using a single host strain, M. smegmatis mc2155, over 500 of which have been completely sequenced. These are mostly from environmental samples, but mycobacteriophages have also been isolated from stool samples of tuberculosis patients, although these have yet to be genomically analyzed. Clearly, these mycobacteriophages represent only a tiny piece of the overall phage population, which is predicted to include 1031 particles, making them the majority of all life-forms in the biosphere.
Mycobacteriophages: Windows into Tuberculosis
Source: PLOS Pathohens
Image credits: Journal of Virology