Dual predation by bacteriophage and Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus can eradicate Escherichia coli prey in situations where single predation cannot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Laura Hobley
  • J. Kimberley Summers
  • Rob Till
  • David S. Milner
  • Robert J. Atterbury
  • Amy Stroud
  • Michael J. Capeness
  • Stephanie Gray
  • Andreas Leidenroth
  • Carey Lambert
  • Ian Connerton
  • Jamie Twycross
  • Michelle Baker
  • Jess Tyson
  • R. Elizabeth Sockett

Colleges, School and Institutes


Bacteria are preyed upon by diverse microbial predators, including bacteriophage and predatory bacteria, such as Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. While bacteriophage are used as antimicrobial therapies in Eastern Europe and are being applied for compassionate use in the United States, predatory bacteria are only just beginning to reveal their potential therapeutic uses. However, predation by either predator type can falter due to different adaptations arising in the prey bacteria. When testing poultry farm wastewater for novel Bdellovibrio isolates on Escherichia coli prey lawns, individual composite plaques were isolated containing both an RTP (rosette-tailed-phage)-like-phage and a B. bacteriovorus strain and showing central prey lysis and halos of extra lysis. Combining the purified phage with a lab strain of B. bacteriovorus HD100 recapitulated haloed plaques and increased killing of the E. coli prey in liquid culture, showing an effective side-by-side action of these predators compared to their actions alone. Using approximate Bayesian computation to select the best fitting from a variety of different mathematical models demonstrated that the experimental data could be explained only by assuming the existence of three prey phenotypes: (i) sensitive to both predators, (ii) genetically resistant to phage only, and (iii) plastic resistant to B. bacteriovorus only. Although each predator reduces prey availability for the other, high phage numbers did not abolish B. bacteriovorus predation, so both predators are competent to coexist and are causing different selective pressures on the bacterial surface while, in tandem, controlling prey bacterial numbers efficiently. This suggests that combinatorial predator therapy could overcome problems of phage resistance. 


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00629-19
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number6
Early online date6 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2020