Isolation and characterization of bacteriophages from the human skin microbiome that infect Staphylococcus epidermidis

Valente, Luca G.; Pitton, Melissa; Fürholz, Monika; Oberhaensli, Simone; Bruggmann, Rémy; Leib, Stephen L.; Jakob, Stephan M.; Resch, Grégory; Que, Yok-Ai; Cameron, David R. (2021). Isolation and characterization of bacteriophages from the human skin microbiome that infect Staphylococcus epidermidis. FEMS Microbes, 2 Oxford University Press 10.1093/femsmc/xtab003

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Phage therapy might be a useful approach for the treatment of nosocomial infections; however, only few lytic phages suitable for this application are available for the opportunistic pathogen, Staphylococcus epidermidis. In the current study, we developed an efficient method to isolate bacteriophages present within the human skin microbiome, by using niche-specific S. epidermidis as the host for phage propagation. Staphylococcus epidermidis was identified on the forehead of 92% of human subjects tested. These isolates were then used to propagate phages present in the same skin sample. Plaques were observable on bacterial lawns in 46% of the cases where S. epidermidis was isolated. A total of eight phage genomes were genetically characterized, including the previously described phage 456. A total of six phage sequences were unique, and spanned each of the major staphylococcal phage families; Siphoviridae (n = 3), Podoviridae (n = 1) and Myoviridae (n = 2). One of the myoviruses (vB_SepM_BE06) was identified on the skin of three different humans. Comparative analysis identified novel genes including a putative N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase gene. The host-range of each unique phage was characterized using a panel of diverse staphylococcal strains (n = 78). None of the newly isolated phages infected more than 52% of the S. epidermidis strains tested (n = 44), and non-S. epidermidis strains where rarely infected, highlighting the narrow host-range of the phages. One of the phages (vB_SepM_BE04) was capable of killing staphylococcal cells within biofilms formed on polyurethane catheters. Uncovering a richer diversity of available phages will likely improve our understanding of S. epidermidis-phage interactions, which will be important for future therapy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic of Intensive Care
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Cardiovascular Disorders (DHGE) > Clinic of Cardiology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute for Infectious Diseases
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Valente, Luca Gabriele, Pitton, Melissa Phung-Kieu, Fürholz, Monika, Oberhänsli, Simone, Bruggmann, Rémy, Leib, Stephen, Jakob, Stephan, Que, Yok-Ai, Cameron, David Robert


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Oxford University Press


[116] Swiss Heart Foundation = Schweizerische Herzstiftung ; [4] Swiss National Science Foundation ; [UNSPECIFIED] Novartis Foundation




Stephen Leib

Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2021 13:53

Last Modified:

03 May 2023 23:55

Publisher DOI:





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